Poet creates back-stories for town’s famous statues

A SEQUENCE of poems imagining the back-stories of five of the Sean Henry statues in Woking town centre is included in a local poet’s newly-published collection.

The poems, under the title All The Lonely People, can be found in Marples Must Go!, by Greg Freeman, from West Byfleet. 

CREATIVE – Greg Freeman with Sean Henry’s Standing Man, which is one of the subjects in the poetry collection Marples Must Go!

Greg, a retired newspaper journalist who now co-comperes a monthly poetry open mic night in Woking, said he sent the poems to Sean when he first wrote them two years ago.

The sculptor responded enthusiastically, saying: “There is really nothing better than a creative response to art and I feel very honoured when anyone takes the sculptures as a starting point for a new creative endeavour.

“You have also accurately captured some of the thoughts that went into the works, as well as bringing in ideas of your own which feel somehow ‘right’.”

Greg, who is also a member of Woking Writers Circle, said: “Of course, I was bowled over by such a reply. Sean’s statues dotted around Woking in strategic places – with more to come – add so much to the town. Their enigmatic nature allows the imagination a lot of room.”

Another poem in the collection, Fine and Dandy, was inspired by an exhibition of comic art at Woking’s Lightbox museum and gallery a few years ago.

Greg added: “The final line of the poem – “Why can’t life still be hilarious?” is certainly one of the themes of Marples Must Go!” 

WRITING ON THE WALL – The title of Greg’s book refers to graffiti attacking the colourful Conservative minister Ernest Marples

The book’s title comes from a slogan on a bridge across the M1 that remained there for decades, demanding that Ernest Marples, a transport minister and Postmaster General in the 1960s, should resign.

Marples was widely blamed for the Beeching railway cuts and had a very colourful private life. He fled to Monaco to avoid prosecution over his tax affairs.

Other subjects in the collection include free school milk, Sixties pop music, the newspaper industry, COVID and Brexit.

Greg’s book has been praised by fellow poet Brian Bilston, known as the “poet laureate of Twitter”, who has many thousands of followers on the social media platform.

 Brian said: “In Marples Must Go! Greg Freeman pulls off the difficult trick of writing poetry that is both funny and thoughtful, poignant and personal.

“With topics stretching from the Beatles to Brexit, from childhood comics to COVID jabs, this collection constitutes a wonderful poetic romp through the history of modern Britain.”

Maggie Sawkins, winner of the Ted Hughes Award for poetry, wrote: “Greg Freeman is not only blessed with the journo’s eye for a good story but also has a sound poetic sensibility and a social conscience to boot.

“There’s much to savour and amuse in the range of subjects: Greg captures the exuberance and angst of our times with wit and compassion.”

Neil Leadbeater, author, essayist, poet and critic wrote: “These engaging poems are more than one man’s memory of significant moments in his life. They are my memories too and they will resonate with many other readers.

“They are the kind of poems that work well in performance as well as on the printed page. The collection captures with wit and compassion ‘our time’. Fully recommended.”

Marples Must Go! is published by Guildford-based poetry publishers Dempsey & Windle, and can be ordered from their website. It is also on sale at Woking’s new Lionsheart Bookshop in Commercial Way.

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