Lit and Phil Writing


25 October (1915) When I was at work in Shop 40 on Saturday last, the spirits of the girls that work there every day seemed all around me, & this common- place, vulgar, music-hall-like song came into my head & I nearly wept over it. On Sunday when I thought of it I felt too ashamed to write it down. But today I got a book of poetry by one Ford Maddox Hueffer out of the Lit. & Phil. & the preface is all about writing poetry out of emotions roused by the things you are really in touch with & see & feel every day, even if they are of necessity in vulgar language so I wrote it down after all.

                                                            The Pilgrimage of Grace: the diaries of Ruth Dodds

Running the rickety floorboards still
Your words are your children
Up in the Gallery of the Lit and Phil

Serendipity and grace notes call me
To this book held close and secret
After the shunt and clang of Shop Forty

Vulgar bright music-hall charms
Ushered forth by Ford Madox Ford
Will not harm nor alarm those

Gathering at anarchy’s oval table
Dysfunctional laptops and today’s soup
Swoop and cherish with grey-haired dedication

To mop up ill-advised angry punctuation
Algorithimed to this present hooked
In pockets caught unawares

Spilling the length of the drunken hill to Baltic Chambers
Where my grandfather’s father lost the family fortune
On the Quayside where your father and his father strangers

To immigrant vagaries had printed and bound
Sold and delivered the quotidian ballads
In which he corralled refusing to be found

Scrabbling back to Hueffer
His Westphalian moniker
Just as my Great Grandfather

Abandoned his Jesmond Vale barony
Gifting his Saxony moss litter for Schmidt
To crash on commercial seas

The folded corner of page thirteen weights
My hand cleaving Geordie and High Germany
Polished by common-place spirits

Revenants to my spoons and your Annie
The first of those ‘girls’ in the shell-shop
To open her mouth and speak through you to me


Tracy Gillman is an actor, writer and director. She is in her second year of doctoral studies at Newcastle University and engaged in writing an epic verse drama set at Newcastle Central Station in 1919 which explores personal and political revolutionary activity on Tyneside at this pivotal moment in history. Her interests are working-class women’s hidden voices in the North-East, the archive and alternate histories.