Timothy Winters

This is a poem from my childhood, read in school by the inspirational sort of English teacher every child deserves but who is probably being chased out of education by the sterile politicians who run education in Britain.  The poem, and the memory of the teacher, stayed with me.

Timothy Winters

Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football-pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.

His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation-mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.

When teacher talks he won’t hear a word
And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,
He licks the pattern off his plate
And he’s not even heard of the Welfare State.

Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren’t boys like him anymore.

Old Man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier,
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy’s dosed with an aspirin.

The welfare Worker lies awake
But the law’s as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.

At Morning Prayers the Master helves
for children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars “Amen!”

So come one angel, come on ten
Timothy Winters says “Amen
Amen amen amen amen.”
Timothy Winters, Lord. Amen

Charles Causley

The poetry of Charles Causley is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

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One thought on “Timothy Winters

  1. Charles Causley forms part of my hinterland too, along with many other works. A huge landmass formed by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spencer, Milton, the Metaphysicals and Malory. And into modernity and beyond.
    I am presently reading ‘Elizabeth Bishop At Work’ by Eleanor Cook, published by Yale in 2016. ‘News that stays news,’ in Pound’s words.
    Bishop discovered her own hinterland in her adopted country of Brazil.
    This sense of spiritual homecoming comes across strongly in a film they made of Elizabeth Bishop’s life, ‘Reaching for the Moon’ (2013) Peccadillo Pictures. It is one of the few really intelligent films about writers, the other being Andrew Wagner’s ‘Starting Out in the Evening’ starring Frank Langella. Both available on DVD.
    Getting back to Charles Causley. I heard many of his poems read aloud by my wonderful primary teacher, Hazel Wade.
    The distinguished head of English at my Glasgow comprehensive school, James McGrath, was a Causley admirer. Mr McGrath edited a multi-volumed anthology titled ‘The Poetry Makers’ which was published by the Bodley Head in the late Sixties.
    I recall a discussion with Mr McGrath about Causley’s commitment to the ballad form and our shared admiration for the Border Ballads.
    Hearing poems read aloud gives one the sense of a hinterland that endures throughout life. Do children enjoy this experience today? I hope so.
    I had the privilege of hearing PJ Kavanagh read his poem Edward Thomas in Heaven at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. And I have read poems aloud to myself when I explore the high wolds of Gloucestershire where Mr Kavanagh lived.
    Like you, I am sure, I have a strong sense of place, whether I am in Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales or Western Europe. Causley found this in Cornwall. His experience of the War at sea was a major factor in his life as was his experience in teaching children.
    Children enjoy the sound and taste of words. They understand the mystery of poetry, ‘the music of what happens’ (Helen Vendler’s phrase). Walter de La Mare was a huge influence in my childhood. I am about to read the biography of Walter de la Mare by Therese Whistler.
    Yesterday in a secondhand bookshop I picked up ‘Enemies of Poetry’ by WB Stanford published by Routledge and Kegan Paul in 1980 and praised by the TLS.
    I read an online essay about Denise Levertov’s. In her classes she would tap out the movement of a poem as she read it aloud.
    Schools in Scotland encouraged visits from poets such as Edwin Morgan, Norman MacCaig, Robert Garioch and Liz Lochhead. I read an online Guardian interview with Roger McGough who does much to promote poetry in schools.
    My local Oxfam bookshop hosts venues at which young poets read from their work. These events are packed out.
    Your blog has many lively features which I shall explore. I am glad to have discovered it. Thank you.
    John Haggerty

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