It’s National Poetry Day!

Today is National Poetry Day and the theme this year is freedom. Ted Booth, the just-stepping-down writer in residence at the library has written the following poem to bring some poetry to our West Hampstead lives.

You may be lucky enough to be handed a copy as you cross Fortune Green or pass the library (they are handing out 1,000 copies)! If not, here it is. First, as written (the form is important) but in case that is too small to read on your phone, additionally below that fully written out.

West Hampstead, enjoy National Poetry Day.

Carpe Diem

The boys have been led
into a corridor,
long walls hung with photos.
Alumni, class after class,
year after year.
So what have they all
got in common,
asks the teacher.
Rich, famous, successful,
hazard the boys.
No, says the teacher,
they are all dead.
So this is the lesson boys,

carpe diem (1)

Carpe diem, an exhortation
given great poignancy
by the fate
of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Held in an Iranian jail,
she and her fellow prisoners
have written down
their hopes and fantasies
for the first, longed for
day of freedom.
Their notelets hang beribboned
from a tree on Fortune Green. (2)
They dream of tomorrow
to keep the energy for today.

For us the fortunate ones
who are not incarcerated,
nor staring at a ceiling
from a hospital bed,
nor staring across
a care home lounge,
tomorrow is our next,
first day of freedom,
to choose our coffee,
shut the front door
and cross the green
and go to our chosen work,
which is not, dear Phillip (3)
a toad which
squats upon our back.

In the evening
we will return
to re-cross the Green
and open the front door,
having seized another day
of freedom.

Ted Booth

(1) Robin Williams – Dead Poets Society


(3) Phillip Larkin -‘ Toads’

The poem refers to Nazanin Ratcliffe, the West Hampstead wife and mother who is not able to enjoy her freedom. Inspired by the poem her husband Richard in front of the Iranian Embassy will be reading it, along with other poems written on the theme by Nazanin and her fellow prisoners.

The bard of Fortune Green, Ted Booth, is former artist in residence of the Friends of Fortune Green and  just stepping down as writer in residence of Friends of West Hampstead Library. A friend indeed. Thank you, Ted.

Water: A Fortune Green poem

Today is National Poetry Day. You may not know that Fortune Green has an official poet. Ted Booth is the artist in residence for 2013-14, and has already written a couple of poems, which you can read here, including one about the film screening of Back to the Future.

Today’s poem is inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “water, water, everywhere” from The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Given the forecast for this afternoon, it is apposite.


It  rains
It  rains
Up  above  us  on  the  Heath
levels  in  the  ponds  rise  alarmingly
It  rains
It  rains
Under  The  Green  is  a  fleet  river
it  speeds  downhill
to  the  Fire  Station  and  Pizza  Express  
It  rains
It  rains
The  water  pours
over  the  grass
along  the  paths
flooding  the  roads
pooling  into  unlucky  basements
ankle  deep  in  sodden  gardens
It  rains
It  rains
It  rains
It  pours
Over the page
The  flag  stones  are  awash
at  the  mouth  of  The  Green
the  stone  fountain
after  weeks  of  temperance
drinks  its  fill
and  vomits,  startling
the  doused  pigeons  into  flight
It  rains
It  goes  on  raining
Water,  water,  everywhere.

About Ted Booth
Ted was born in 1938 and educated at the London School of Economics. He is a retired lecturer in creative writing at Middlesex University. A part time poet, Ted has published two volumes; Rough Draft (1998) and Fair Copy (2010) and is anthologised in Football: Pure Poetry, Vols. 1 and 2 alongside Seamus Heaney, Roger McGough and Adrian Mitchell. Ted has lived in West Hampstead for over twenty years.