Kate Fox: Poet in Residence

Kate Fox was The Word’s Poet in Residence during our WRITE Festival 2017.

Throughout her time at The Word, Kate got involved in many things including school poetry sessions, hosting our Poetry Slam and adult poetry workshops. She was also asked to write a poem relating to her time in residence at The Word.

She performed her poem as part of the closing ceremony.

Circle of Friends by Kate Fox

In the beginning was The Word,

The Word is…

The Word is on the street,


Designed to show the pages

of a new book,

come inside and take a look.

Opposite where the ferries come and go,

where the Tyne ebbs and flows,

the ferry landing like an open mouth,

give and take from an energy that never ends,

join a circle of friends.



This shiny building,

filled with light,

welcomes people in,

from the market place,

where people have exchanged

things they need, and want

for centuries.



You can leave your words here,

before they disappear.

The Lost Dialect is being preserved

in the Caer Urfa pod.

A “Hamma”

is a friend, because in the shipyards,

one person would hold the river tight,

the other would pass the hammer.

A turnip was a narkie,

hoggas are underpants,

slabbie, claggy, clammin’,

we might not hear them on the BBC,

but they’re words that still live and breathe,

words we will bequeath.



Upstairs people are using the giant iPads,

simultaneously consulting mobile screens

and gaming on the Nintendo.

Checking out the live shipping information

on the table screen,

or staring, still not bored of the sight,

at the boats right outside

the vast window.



There’s still grey haired men,

reading the Gazette and the Chronicle,

at the table next to that little box

full of words and songs.

Stanley makes me guess his age,

and enjoys my surprise

when he reveals he’s ninety five.

He says there are regulars,

they have a chat,

“We’re the Knights of the Round Table”

he laughs.



Hidden among the papers,

a red envelope holding a poem,

left by the Poetry Exchange,

handwritten on the front:

“A Friend for you to escape with”.

They come into libraries

and listen to people talk about poems

that have meant a lot to them.

Tom Kelly told them about a whispering poem

that clanged like a bell,

about how verse

can give voice to the voiceless.



In the “Writing Together”

group, Katie writes about how

she has realised

she had been living in her head,

but that the group

listens to her words,

makes her feel a weight’s been lifted.

We remember Mams making pork pies,

colleagues we laughed with,

the stuffed spider toy at the old library,

the continuing time

we’ve all been gifted.



Pam says a circle

can exclude,

there’s no gap,

but here at the Word,

new people

have been let in.

It’s like a tumbledryer,

or a circle dance,

the energy circulates,

lets a new cycle begin.



She points out that the big light

looks like sticks of rock.

People keep talking about the openness,

the airiness, the space.

Some miss the subterranean dark,

of where they were before,

the being safely tucked away,

rather than exposed to the light of day.



Nabiha has just finished her GCSEs

but already has her head buried

in an AS Level biology textbook.

I tell Nathan there’s a roof terrace

and he dashes up the stairs

to have a look.



The volunteers are putting council archives

onto the computer,

the Jewish lady transcribing gravestone inscriptions

from Harton Cemetery and the Ukraine

so Rosensteins and Blumenthals all over the world

can log in and find their ancestors.



A librarian says it never feels too quiet or too busy,

it’s just serene,

a cleaner says people thank her

for keeping the toilets so clean.



The Clippie Matters have been working

on the Gruffalo for three years,

point out to me which side

talks even more than the other side,

bare matting holes still on view.

They say they might get

“Yes, I know your Grandma made these”

tattooed on their forehead.



Dawn told me how she looked down

from the third floor balcony at them,

for ages.

She brings one year old Archie

to read him stories,

because she runs out of things to say,

when it’s just the two of them at home all day.



Johnny is scuffing his heels

on the wood laminate,

restlessness coming off him like sparks.

Asks the librarian

if she can help him get onto computer number eight.

it’s his first time here,

he needs to get his life together,

he’s got a baby on the way.

They don’t help at the Job Centre,

but he likes it here,

though he’s noticed other public places

and libraries are starting to disappear.

School was being hemmed in,

the open space here suits him,

the natural light.



I join in with the ukulele group’s

“Wild Rover”,

Margaret says the music stopped for her

after her husband died,

but this group’s making her sing again.

Janet says her family tell her to shut up,

when she starts,

but no one judges here.

Later, the choir

fill the balconies with their song,

a father and son in football shorts,

a little girl in purple leggings,

swaying and clapping along.



Angela tells me about the time they hijacked

the schoolchildren at Christmas.

Brought them in from signing in the rain,

got them under the tree,

people watching them

from every balcony.

Though maybe, she reflects,

the brass band was a step too far.



It smells of clean air in here,

at most you’ll catch a whiff

of the cafe’s cinnamon toast.

“Who keeps putting dog sausages

in the fridge?”

someone asks in mock outrage

in the staff room.



The Scrabble group

started off by accident

when a man set up a table in the foyer

with a sign saying :Fancy a game of Chess?”.

Originally it was the colouring group,

somebody laughs that it’s what a council boss would call

“an unexpected outcome”.

One woman sits quietly, carefully

colouring in an intricate mandala

in browns and pale blues.



In the Fab Lab’s someone’s 3D printed

a dinosaur,

in the Openzone,

Hebburn Comp kids

are in the film studio,

rehearsing their earthquake poem,

Amanda will add music,

and a shattering glass effect,

so it looks like they all disappear

at the end.

The kids write poems remembering

playground accidents they’ve had,

that dog that did the Michael Jackson impression,

how much they miss their Grandad.



“You never know what’ll come through those doors every day”

the librarians say.

Kim’s down in the archives,

steering the collapsible shelves,

says old books give her the creeps,

with their crumbly covers,

and musty smell.

She says she think she’s a bit OCD,

likes shelves with books at the same height,

likes to stare out of the window

at the cars going round the roundabout.

Preferably ones of the same colour.



Anna worked the cafe

during the poetry slam

and tells me she loved it,

so much so she went home

and started writing a poem

about how she doesn’t understand that expression

“He looked at her as if she was the sun”,

because starting it at directly

makes her screw up her eyes

and look away.

Hearing other people voice things

makes you realise

how much you have to say.



It’s just a snapshot,

this picture of the Word in the round:

The oval of Shaun’s smiling face,

pictured in a pirate’s body,

Tynemouth captured in a telescope lens

from the viewing platform,

a child’s hand tentatively held

over the metal circle of a vent,

blowing out warm air,

the Groyne’s weather vane,

coloured messily in green,

with broad rush setting

on a giant crystal screen,

a seagull’s eye,

taking in the glitter of white quartz

and glass,

the coal-black plinth;

the chandelier regulating itself

like a body,

following the movements

of the sun.



All day people circulate the building,

process up and down the stairs.

The clatter of plates,

the constant hum of voices,

neither whispering

nor shouting,

their voices hovering

in this specially designed cylinder

so they carry but don’t grate

on your ear.



There is a big round gap here,

in the centre of this building.

“Bloody waste of space”

one man had said,

but it seems to me

that this is a place which invites people

to fill it,

and take things from it.

To let their voices loose,

spiralling through the void,

with their hopes

for a better future,

and flood it with light

which will guide them

out of the deep dark wood,

which will lead them to share

others words

and know they’re accepted

and understood,

with songs of a future

we can still have faith in,

of Sand dancers

and cloud computing,

uniting old Shields,

and new,

one that can accommodate

the best of the old

and a 360 degree view.



In the beginning was The Word,

The Word is…

The Word is on the street,


Designed to show the pages

of a new book,

come inside and take a look,

opposite where the ferries come and go,

where the Tyne ebbs and flows,

give and take from an energy that never ends,

join a circle of friends.