We were headed for the poetry judging at the Bishop's Palace, as my poem 'Mr Cowper's Hares' was slugging it out with the other shortlisted poems for one of the prizes on offer.
I've a soft spot for the Wells Festival of Literature poetry competition because back in 2010, my poem 'Coleridge Changes his Library Books' took first prize. It was this that prompted me to stick my head above the parapet and start going to open mics and entering more competitions - which in turn led to a publishing deal for my poems and my novel, and the making of so many friends in the poetry community.
As it is, 'Mr Cowper's Hares' put up a good fight and came away with the Hilly Cansdale prize for local poets in their paws.
William Cowper was an 18th century poet and hymn writer, born a generation or two before Blake, Coleridge, Clare and Keats, and like them, posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Of course, we can never really know what caused the mental illness of any of them; in any event, what's more interesting about Cowper is the fact he kept three orphaned hares as pets and found some comfort in caring for them.
Mr Cooper’s Hares
And so he sits without moving
holds them in his lap
not so tightly they’ll take fright
leap through the window, scream up the lane
outstripping every attempt to catch them
hurling themselves from rock to moss to wild supposition
till they’ve gone beyond all returning
no longer know they have a home
and not so softly they’ll take fright
bolt down the passage, out through the door
dodging the grasp of passers-by
plunging almost suicidal into tan pits
brought back half-drowned in a sack
caked with lime
and so he holds them without moving
pent between his hands
sees his reflection in their mad
©Deborah Harvey 2016