Church Restoration/Angelou Furore Explained – Poetry News Roundup March 25th

We begin the week here on My Poetic Side with an article about a church restoration. We also take a look at the story about Maya Angelou we looked at last week, as the women who called the poet by her first name has had a chance to put her side of the story.

£2.1m Restoration Project Completed on Church with Literary Links

The St Mary de Crypt church and schoolroom which is located in Gloucester has been given a new life following a £2.1 million restoration project.

The church has a few literary links to the author Charles Dickens and the poet and author Robert Louis Stevenson.

The banker who it believed may have been Charles Dickens inspiration for the character of Scrooge, James “Jemmy” Wood is buried there. Wood was well known in the area as the Gloucester Miser, he was also the owner of the Gloucester Old Bank. It is believed that despite being considerably wealthy, he not only chose to wear ragged clothes but also once took a lift in an empty hearse just to save money. There is also a character in The Pickwick Papers, Dismal Jemmy, who may also have been inspired by Wood.

The school also has literary links, the poet William Ernest Henley, who wrote the 1865 poem Invictus was a pupil there. He suffered from tuberculosis and as a result, had his left leg amputated below the knee. He was the inspiration for the character of Long John Silver in Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the two men were friends.

The restoration work on the church has taken two years, but now the church together with a community centre are about to be reopened as a heritage attraction. The National Lottery Heritage Fund gave the project a grant of £1.36m and the rest of the money came from a variety of donations. It is hoped that the restoration work will allow the building to attract a wider audience of around 20,000 people per year.

Reflection by Woman Who Called Maya Angelou by Her First Name

Last week we reported on a 30-year-old interview clip that had surfaced on Twitter in which a young girl had called the poet Maya Angelou by her first name in an interview and been rebuked by the poet.

Now Kim Watts, who is 49 and works in education has spoken out. She was on a class trip with some of her fellow students when she had the opportunity to be a member of the audience for the show “People are Talking”. She was given the chance to ask Angelou a question which she did, referring to her as Angelou. The poet rebuked her and then later apologised; Watts remembers her embarrassment at insulting one of her icons.

 While she admits that at the time, she was somewhat surprised by the poet’s reaction now she is older, she can see both sides of the situation.

It had not been her intention to insult the poet but having been adopted and raised by a white family Watts had not been brought up to address adults with the more formal courtesy of a title, something that was more commonplace at the time amongst young black people.

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