I had my first chat with Dave Wood, about his newly published book of poems, on the Matlock train one drizzly Saturday morning in June. We were both alighting at Belper for the Arts Trail so had plenty of time for a good old chin wag. I had heard about this special collection of poems via a friend, then Dave contacted me himself to ask if I wouldn’t mind supporting with a bit of publicity before the launch.
Poetry seems to have risen in popularity since the pandemic. Perhaps our attention spans being pulled in different directions by social media notifications and email alerts has made us less inclined to consume longer texts. Or maybe because the pandemic caused us to embrace the moments that capture the imagination more vividly. Whatever the reason, a poetry anthology can provide a welcome escape from the mundanity of daily life.
This is his 35th year in language-community-arts; born in Heanor, Derbyshire, Dave Wood began his creative career down in Dorset on 20th June 1988 when he became involved in participatory theatre (known as Instant Theatre). This was a decade of performing in Britain, Ireland and Europe. He finally gave eighteen months’ notice, allowing him time to pass on his skills before he parted with the company, Word And Action (Dorset) Ltd.
Returning to the East Midlands, his intention was to work on a more physical job to pay the rent whilst focusing on his own poetry; “things never quite work out as one thinks…”
In 2000 he approached Nottingham Waterstones about becoming a resident poet; they approved. He was grateful for the paid opportunities this brought with it, particularly running workshops and interacting with the customers. This lasted for roughly two years and was beneficial in building up his reputation and bringing in other work.
2004 brought his first request for a commissioned poem for The Beetroot Tree in Draycott Gallery (now the Elephant Rooms) and became part of an installation, produced by textile artist, Sue Jarman. He tells me that he took his own advice in writing the poem, putting pen to paper without overthinking, just seeing where the words went. You can read the full poem here https://ghostsandshadows.blogspot.co.uk/ .
He also works as a wandering festival poet, under the pseudonym, Dr Rhyme, offering passers-by a free written piece for the occasion; subjects have ranged from memento mori to subjects as obscure as 1930’s haberdashery. If you have watched Dave perform, (he works in the round), you will see how much he enjoys the connection to the audience.
akal; seventy poems for seventy meditations
Akal (undying) is often chanted to help a soul achieve union with universal consciousness in the Sikh tradition. The soul is considered to be eternal and untouchable by the material world.
We all love a good story, and the story behind this set of poems I find particularly interesting. They are testament to the writer’s commitment to the Kundalini yoga practice he was introduced to by tutor, Denise Benton. Each poem was written following a meditation and the collection is chronological.
There were 81 poems in total; Dave chose to publish the first 70 as the final one felt like the natural conclusion to this exploration in free ‘spirited’ expression. The poem’s last stanza being, ‘I hear others/i join in/ i am ok/ am ok’, checks in with the writer that, indeed, things are as they should be or at least, he’s still here and scoffing cake.
The collection features poetic forms such as haiku, villanelle and blank verse, occasionally there are strings of ‘nonsense words’ that echo the symbiotic effect of the mantra.
The reader is encouraged to dip in where they feel or immerse themselves fully in his journey through the meditation process, personal circumstances and life events. The blurb on the back, written by poet, Rosie Garner, encourages us to engage in Dave’s invitation to join [him] with the breathing exercises and precise positioning of hands. She suggests you read in a way that allows you to ‘uncover your own meanings’ and ‘get a feel for the way the poems change beneath your feet’.
When I met Dave to discuss the book launch back in June, he tells me that he likes to engage with the audience, allowing people space to respond to what they hear. His recent performance at the George Avenue Allotments began with him reading out poems 1-3 then asking the audience to roll a pair of dice to determine which ones he should read out next. He invited me to pick a number – I chose number 28.
twenty eight – ham sandwich
shabba dabby dabbity daaaah
blah blah blah
[raise your hands
cross the thumb over itself
– sing the next one]
(the poem continues)
I enjoyed the playful humour contained within, I am grounded by the final lines ‘shine your light, namaste’.
Dave is a painter as well as a poet and provided the art for the wraparound himself.
He is also part of the Paper Plane Poet collective, who we featured in the last issue and reminds me that their first anthology First Flight will be out in print soon.
To find out more about Dave and his work, go to