New Poetry Anthology, “Welcome to Leicester” Probes History, Life of Leicester City

Richmore Tera.

Leicester, England. (News Of The South) – Many people around the around the world might know Leicester City in England for being home to the famous soccer team of the same name who wrote their piece of history by clinching the 2015/ 2016 English Premier League.

But reading through the poetry anthology, “Welcome to Leicester”, co-edited edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa, one is fascinated by the multi-faceted nature of the City, its seething historical background dating back to ancient times when kings fought for family honor and reign over the land; when women were given their right to vote; when the Atlantic Slave Trade was abolished and of course, the love for sport and art by the people of this City.

When I first received this collection, and going through the introduction, I was amazed by the amount of work that the editors had to go through in order to come up with a book of this exhaustive nature.
Exhaustive I say because through the various social media channels, the editors called out for poetry submissions from not only from people in Leicester, but also to the seven towns in various parts of the world which also carry the same.

“We also sent out invites to the five cities in other parts of the world that are twinned with Leicester – Chonqing in China; Krefeld in Germany; Masaya in Nicaragua; Rajkot in India and Srasbourg in France – as well as to seven other towns that are also Leicester – Leicester, Sierra Leone; Leicester, North Carolina; Leicester, Massachusetts; Leicester, Vermont; Leicester, New York; Leicester (village), New York; and Leicester Towship, Clay County, Nebraska.”

As the title suggests, “Welcome to Leicester” takes you the City, vicariously, that is, and here you experience the wide tapestry of its colours, flavor, foibles, frailties, strengths and success stories as it boldly moves shoulders equal with other cities and towns in England.

The love for everything that is Leicester is gist of David Holloway’s Poem “Kaleidoscope” and “Leicester” by Malka al-Haddad.

“Every person /can create the kaleidoscope, / as each new pattern / is discovered. Life isn’t about/ finding yourself in the candela/ of misshapen dead ends/ but in the patterns of life, in a city of colours/ where a new identity can be created.” (page 9)

Here, Holloway is calling for a shift in the minds of some people who are still charmed by things with short-term benefits yet having long term effects. He wants to be part of the progress as the active City sloughs off its old manacles and moves into new zones.

On the other hand, Al-Haddad in the “Leicester” speaks about the travails of being a refugee with no place to call home.

From exile, the poet is at total peace when in Leicester.”People see me a refugee. But I am a free bird, nestling in your grass.”

“On Leicester Winning the Premiership”, by Rob Gee does not miss the euphoric excitement laced with a bit of political ‘jibs’ of course, that runs through the poem that celebrates the historic win of the Premiership by the team.

The plight that women went through, sometimes treated as second class-citizens in olden days, is brought out in the poem “Diary from Holloway Jail, February 1907” where the poet tells the story of a widow who is wallowing in prison where the conditions are just as bad as those of the Trade Unions she had approached before to push for her rights only to be told off in no better terms that they “didn’t think of women as breadwinners.” (page 52)

Close to this in terms of message is the well-written “The Shoemakers’ Walk” also by Emma Lee, which is touching poem about a group of 497 labourers, who after being laid off after the Boer War, decided to band together for a protest march led by Amos Sheriff who became mayor of Leicester in 1922. The march occurred in 1905 but today it still remains as one of the telling examples of the levels people can go in demanding their liberties.

“Tree of Memories” and “When Leicester Becomes a Republic” are deceptively simple looking and sounding but when once cracks this façade, important questions on preserving some essential heritages of the land are raised.

Comprising of 90 poems, this is probably one of the most revealing books that are a significant contribution to literature from, on and by people from Leicester and other parts of the world.
By bringing together such a multifarious group of poets, the editors also promoted the spirit of the world being one global village.

“Welcome to Leicester” was published by Dahlia Publishing Ltd (2006).

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