Today’s poem in our Poetree Calendar is Parasol (or Just a Light Shower) written by A.F. Harrold (@afharrold). I discovered this poem thanks to what has turned out to be my literary experience of the year (forget Pullman’s new book! A new Children’s laureate? Good, but not as good! An incredible Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library? Pretty amazing, but still not quite as enjoyable….); every week for almost the past 6 months I’ve been the very fortunate recipient of a handwritten poem sent through the post by A.F. Harrold.
On the 14th of June this year 71 people died in a fire that broke out in a block of flats in London, and in the aftermath of that terrible event an online auction (Authors for Grenfell Towers) was set up to raise funds for the British Cross London Fire Relief Fund, a fund established to help those affected by the fire. I bid on “Six months of poems” by post from A.F. Harrold and through a wonderful mix of generosity and camaraderie, and unexpected twists and turns of the best sort, not long after the bidding closed I started to receive my weekly does of poetry. If there is a more enjoyable prescription for lifting ones spirits and reminding oneself that there are at least nooks and crannies of the world where there is brilliance and kindness and laughter, I don’t know of it.
It’s been what seems a disproportionately wonderful experience. A postcard a week from someone I barely know, and yet it has brought me so much joy. And it’s focussed my experience of reading and thinking about poetry in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Just the one poem, quite literally hand delivered and purely for me to find pleasure in. There’s been no agenda, no requirements, no rush. Simple a gift of playful words, and in rather charming handwriting it has to be said.
There have been poems that have flipped me over onto my head at the last moment; AF has a sumptuously enjoyable knack for taking a phrase or idiom (or sometimes even simply a sequence of syllables), and playing with it, revealing in the poem’s last line an new way to interpret those sounds. Reaching the final full stop gives that feeling of wonder and surprise like the “click” that can happen with optical illusions. There’s a magic, a release and a great sense of humour.
There have been poems full of mischievous absurdity and old-fashioned nonsense (Pick Your Own was another favourite) and there have been quieter, lyrical poems that have felt like contemplative spells (Silences, for example).
We’ve always had photos and art on our walls,but now I have poetry too, and what a brilliant addition that is.
I can’t recommend the experience of getting poems by post highly enough. It really has been the best book-ish experience of the year for me. I’ve read some terrific books which will stay with me a long time, but the personal, very human connection made via hand written words, has been a unique and truly treasurable experience.
And so I’m more than thrilled to announce that AF is offering that experience to one more person in return for a donation to The Book Bus, a book charity close to my heart as it works in Zambia, where I was born.
If you want to be in with a chance of winning 6 months of Poetry by Post please make a bid by leaving a comment below. You can make as many bids as you like (for example, by returning to out bid the previous comment). The ‘auction’ is open for 10 days, and closes at 5pm (UK time) on December 18. I will then contact the highest bidder (NB Please do not make your payment until I have emailed you with confirmation that you have won. No refunds of any donations are possible), and once they have provided evidence of a donation (in GBP) to The Book Bus via one of the methods listed here, I will put them in touch with AF to start their poetry subscription.
Nitty gritty detail
AF is happy to post poetry anywhere in the world but the poems will be posted by standard post and neither he nor I can take any responsibility for the reliability of your local postal service.
You can bid for yourself or on behalf of someone else (though you will still have to make the donation if your bid is the highest). What this means is that you could bid on this as the most amazing Christmas present ever. Maybe you have a son who is budding poet and AF could send his poetry to your son. Perhaps you are married to a wonderful person who has everything, but not a personal poetry subscription…. What better gift could there be than one that last half a year and brings so much delight? Maybe you could bid on behalf of the class you teach? You get the idea 🙂
AF and I are putting a reserve on this experience extraordinaire of £100. In other words, if no bid exceeds £100, there will be no winner. £100 isn’t a snip, but it wouldn’t get you 6 months of coffee on your way to work and speaking from personal experience I can assure you it will be worth every penny of the winning bid.
The winner needs to have made the donation and provided evidence of doing so by 5pm UK time December 22 (best to get things sorted before the craziness of Christmas). If the winner fails to do this, and the next highest bidder has met the reserve, the poetry by post subscription will be offered to the second place bidder and the highest bidder will forfeit their prize.
Please do not make your payment until I have emailed you with confirmation that you have won. No refunds of any donations are possible
How do I bid?
Leave a comment below with your amount in GBP sterling.
Can I bid if I am not in the UK?
Yes! But please identify your bid in GBP only. If you need a currency converter, try this one.
Can I bid more than once?
You can bid on the same item more than once. i.e. if you are outbid, you can comment again with a new, higher, bid.
Who can bid?
Anybody over 18 as long as they have the funds to fulfil their winning bid.
When does the auction start?
Bidding opens at 0:01am (UK time) on Friday 8 December 2017.
When does the auction end?
Bidding ends at 5:00 p.m. (UK time) on Monday 18 December 2017. Bids made after this time will be discounted.
How will I know if I’ve won?
Keep an eye on the comments to make sure yours is the highest bid. After the close of the auction I will verify all bids and contact the winner with the information they need to pay and finalise. Please don’t donate your bid amount to The Book Bus until you have had confirmation from me.
Can I add Gift Aid?
Unfortunately not. Gift Aid does not apply in the case of auctions.
My thanks go to the organisers of the Authors for Grenfell Tower auction, Molly Ker Hawn, Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Sara Barnard. I’ve borrowed quite a lot of their structure for such an auction and am grateful that I’ve been able to learn from them.