A local poet’s land of dreams

John Neary
John Neary
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Michael Neary’s poetry is inspired not only by his Irish and Lancashire roots but by the hills and landscapes of his birthplace, Chipping

It is said that most of us have a poem or a novel inside us, but that to discover the words to write one or the other is possibly the hardest of tasks.

If, however, you are William Michael Neary and you have wandered the lanes, fields and fells around Chipping since childhood, putting those words together comes almost naturally through observing, listening and absorbing everything around you.

One of the 10 children of Irish-born Michael Neary and his wife, Chipping girl Irene Bamber, that is exactly how poet Michael feels he developed a keen love for nature through his wandering.

“Poetry is something I have been able to do since primary school,” he says.

“Somehow the words just turn up in my mind. A poem can take minutes, hours, months or sometimes years to complete, but the most important thing about a poem for me is to keep the sense of feeling and rhythm together, and for this purpose a voice recorder is very useful.

“Every day I go looking for a magical poem and although most days will end in disappointment, I feel compelled to try and try again.

“Every now and again though, a little gem turns up in this tumble dryer of a mind of mine and, hey up, we’re off again.”

One of the earliest of those little gems was composing the grace for meals at St Mary’s Primary School in Chipping, then later words for more down to earth verse were inspired by people watching from building sites.

And now it is the time and space afforded him as he maintains field drains or works on other aspects of building and land maintenance.

His writing has also found its way to being paired with music, a development Michael finds both exciting and challenging.

He explains “Three weeks before Christmas 2010, whilst driving through Mitton on my way to Chipping the words ‘Bowland oh Bowland she’s wild and she’s free’ sprung to mind. For the next three weeks I worked to put together a poem that hopefully captures the simplistic beauty of this area in which we live.

“Then, in the spring of 2011 at the Atrium Café in Clitheroe, I had the good fortune to meet Tom Gill and Evie Rapson, both students at St Mary’s College in Blackburn.

“Tom played, Evie sang and their performance, to my mind, was pure class. So I wondered... would it be possible for them to take the words of the Bowland poem and set it to music? Would Evie be able to sing the words with her fabulous soulful voice?

“Tom gave me a card and asked that I email the words and they would give it a go. Two days later an email arrived with an attachment and they had done it. Unbelievable!”

Recently another contact, Brenda McLaughlin, created a short DVD combining stunning images of Bowland through the seasons, music by Tom and Evie Rapson singing the words to the poem, which Michael entitled “A Land for your Dreams”.

And a further music interest is on the cards after Michael composed a moving poem about the young soldiers leaving for the front in the First World War. It is called “Just Lads” and was inspired by a long straight row of hawthorn trees still covered in bright red berries.

“A Salford University student, Tom Metcalfe, heard the poem and felt it could be beautifully set to music, so that’s another development which is a big thrill for me,” said Michael.

One of his favourite poets is the war poet Laurence Binyon, who wrote the well-known armistice poem “For The Fallen”.

Now 45, married to Susan and living in Barrow, Michael, a former pupil at St Cecilia’s High School in Longridge, finds that his work benefits through his membership of Clitheroe Writers Group and critiques.

Five or six years ago, similar help was given at an evening course by writer Jane Eagland – also well known at Alston Hall College just outside Longridge – where says Michael “other writers’ comments and criticism gave me confidence and I learnt what not to put in poems!”

The DVD is now on sale at the Longridge card shop, Charisma, on Berry Lane, and at The Tillotson’s Arms in Chipping.

Michael is working towards introducing and running poetry trails in and around Chipping, through which he also hopes to share his lyrical poems with people and explain how, when, where and why they were written.

l For further details on the poetry trails, email williamneary@yahoo.co.uk and for more information about buying the DVD, email bowland studio@yahoo.co.uk