Ralph Hoyte, Sara-Jane Arbury, Philip Gross
Poetry Can Project, Bristol

Philip Gross is a poet and novelist, writing for both adults and young people. He won a Gregory Award in 1981 and first prize in the National Poetry Competition the following year. His latest adult collection, The Wasting Game (Bloodaxe) was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize.


The aim of this project was to place poets in an indoor shopping centre in Bristol during the Bristol Poetry Festival 1998 (2-8 October), to give the public the opportunity to come across poetry in an unexpected setting. A poetry stall was set up in the shopping centre for a week and in certain shops. Three local poets were invited to participate in the project: Ralph Hoyte, Philip Gross and Sara-Jane Arbury.

Below is an extract from Sara-Jane Arbury's account of the project and a poem by Philip Gross.  


October 1998

"The Early Learning Centre provided the most fruitful response to initial approaches. Staff helped set up a 'poetry place' in the store with tables, chairs, beanbags, magnetic letters and boards, pens and paper. By playing various word games with groups of interested children using the letters and boards, they soon had a basis from which to set about writing their own poems. The finished drafts were displayed round the counter on coloured paper, along with illustrations and excerpts of poetry recalled by parents / adults from their youth.

Waterstone's bookshop had built a 'poetree' in the children's section of their shop and so again, a special writing space was created. The finished poems were written onto green paper and hung on its branches - soon it was positively blooming! On my second day of the residency, some children brought along poems they had previously written to hang up and throughout there was much discussion about how poetry was taught / encouraged in their schools. Children, it appeared, were more ready to embrace the moment offered to them than the adults who were (in the main) all too aware of time constraints and the place they were in.

Some fruitful contact of greater depth was made with the children I met. One cannot pinpoint the precise moment when such a connection takes place but I believe it is possible for it to happen any time, anywhere, even, it would seem, in the rush hours of The Galleries shopping mall."

Sara-Jane Arbury

Philip Gross
And Poetry?

The Galleries, October 1998

What are you selling? Nothing. Poetry?

Imagine a shaved monk, begging bowl

in cupped hands, offering up


like a gift, a free gift. Nothing, clear

as water, settling till it holds your face

and the faces that crowd in behind you


almost steady, or shivered minutely

by a heartbeat, someone's. Let it settle

deeper, till you see right through


to dented clay like the face of the moon,

and dust specks lifting, turning, as caught up

in their own world as me or you.


Young Poets Network