ALEC SMITH: Teacher, Poet and Painter
Alec, who taught at Fielden Remedial School in the 1970s, was also a published poet and “devoted much of his time to painting…”, according to a brief description in a pamphlet, ‘Platform’, which published a poem of his in 1968.
He was a member of the Pennine Poets, a group founded by Joan Lee. The group members were from far and wide across the Lancashire and Yorkshire Pennine borders, including Todmorden. The Pennine Poets achieved some fame and prestige and had a book written about them in 2006. Alec moved to Huddersfield sometime later in the 70s where he continued writing. He edited Pennine Anthology, which includes photographs of local scenes, published in 1980.
Alec’s poetry was also published by Mid-Pennine Arts, Weyfarers and Poetry Quarterly. He produced a small pamphlet of his own poems (undated) which provides evidence of accomplished and fascinating poems.
Judith Campbell worked at Fielden Remedial School in a secretarial role in the late 60s and early 70s when Alec Smith taught there. She described him as a “lovely, gentle man”, and Corinne Davies called him her “friend”, descriptions which some may see reflected in his poetry. One of the pamphlets is entitled LATE SPRING which includes this title poem on the first page
May half-way gone – so late a spring
with blossoms scarcely formed before they fall –
the wind is full of petals showering
so leaning on my arm
you shout with sudden laughter as they brush
our cheeks in flight
and from your sick bewildered mind
the broken words pour out
a welcome for your seventeenth spring
this spring so late begun
(the final one)
now each day sees
the sun grow stronger as I hold
your hands in mine
and feel the advancing cold
The final poem in the collection, feeding the chickens, ends
and the promise of spring awakening
in the pennine mist and rain
The seasons and the weather are dominant features of the poems which include three translations, or adaptations, from French and one from Italian. People who appear are often anonymous – like the person referred to in late spring – and are ‘sick’ or ‘bewildered’, an exception being a delightful love poem, in the sun. Readers will also have noticed an unconventional approach to poetic expectations, such as the lack of upper-case letters and minimal use of punctuation.
What do you think of the poem?
Perhaps the poet taught you or someone you know?
Please let us know your ideas and memories!
Thanks to Judith and Campbell Malone for the loan of two pamphlets which include Alec’s poems.