The Chair – Steve Bishop

The chair says nothing but speaks volumes,
Sitting there in its borrowed blue
History of a day, crying for a future.
No underwear adorns it,
No crumpled clothing dare cascade.
It stands upright, bright as a new recruit
Inviting new life, a new role, new companions.
Van Gogh painted such a chair in Arles,
Gwen John in Paris, unaccompanied,
Undecorated, alive with expectation.

This presence changes talk and dreams,
Focussing energies into a single purpose.
No distractions and no excuses,
Function shapes the perfect form.
A vibrant blue shimmer of impressions
Explode from the canvas
Like a visual manifesto, angry and alive.
Subtle blends of light, shadow and tone
Capture the quality of a moment
Reflected, in a room without mirrors.

Words fashion futures from a slender history,
Conjure tomorrow from the alchemist’s dream,
Transform into glitter, base metal and waste.
Silence hides a lonely cry to fill this vacant page
With an outpouring of rhythm and imagination,
Worlds populated by everyday philosophers
Gifted with insight and wisdom.
The chair remains mute but pleads for action.
Interpreting the world is one thing,
The point however, is to change it.


I bumped into Julia outside of the Tyneside Cinema one afternoon and amongst various chat, about this and that, she said she was going to devote her time to writing.  Not that I was ever sure what Julia did for a day job.  I knew her as an active member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and through my international  work on Newcastle Trades Union Council.  Julia was the first person I knew who decided to devote herself to writing full time.  I was filled with an overwhelming sense of admiration and a deep jealousy!  This poem is about having the courage to seize that moment, or not!

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Cushie Doo – Fiona Ritchie Walker

He used to call me cushie doo,
his homing bird that never flew,
now perched in our love nest he says we’re through.

I suspect foul play with some fast cuckoo,
a cockatoo, hoopoe or pond-stinking smew
that flew in his path with some billet-doux.

He’ll come back I know in a week or two, wings clipped,
saying turtle dove, I love you. How can you resist
my cock-a-doodle-do? But I do.


I first met Julia at a writing workshop she was leading in the early 1990s. There was a venue mix-up, so we ended up in the children’s section of the library, perched on tiny plastic seats, our knees like mountains – but she soon had us all writing.

This poem always reminds me of Julia and only made it past the first draft because of her encouragement. Whenever I read it, I remember her throwing back her head and laughing.

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Inspired by Julia

This section of the website has poems commissioned in memory of Julia Darling, who died ten years ago (on 13 April 2005).

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