The award-winning Northern Irish poet, Sinéad Morrissey, came to Durham in Summer 2015 as Durham Book Festival Laureate, an arrangement supported by the Centre for Poetry and Poetics. Lister to her new poem, ‘Collier,’ which was commissioned as part of the Festival.
This was Sinéad Morrissey’s first visit to Durham, and so when thinking about material that might reflect a regional theme she drew on the heritage of her grandfather, who was a coal miner in Derbyshire. He suffered a bad pit accident and fell ill with lung disease, experiences that will resonate with many who have roots in County Durham’s own mining past.
In her poem, Morrissey brings the pit back to life, evoking a world below ground through observing the songs of the black damp, the boys “sorting nuts from brights,” greaseproof-wrapped jam sandwiches and “a bottle of gone-cold tea.” She also brings us back above ground, to the “companionable hours” speculating over the racing post, smoking woodbine cigars, and standing with a hatful of coins in the Miner’s Arms. The final section of the poem features an address to a racing pigeon.