‘Walk On’, our lockdown poem

Back in the summer of 2020, I was surprised and uplifted when an email from Harry Meakin of Clout Branding arrived in my inbox. It was an invitation to contribute to a collection of lockdown poetry he was putting together called ‘Beyond the Pane’.

Designed and illustrated by Harry, the Kickstarter book brought together 20 poems, from published poets and professional writers to teachers, florists and sculptors. Some of the contributors I knew, most I didn’t. Proceeds from the project were to go to Platfform – a mental health charity, who are one of Clout’s clients.

This was towards the end of the first wave of the pandemic, when lockdown was tight, work was thin on the ground, and I was scratching around for things to do. To be honest, it had been many years since I’d last dusted off my poetry pencil. Apart from a few spoofs and some loving lines to my wife, I can’t recall having written a poem in earnest since university.

Read on: click on the image to make the text bigger if you need to.

Undoubtedly, one of the main things that got us through the privations of lockdown was Ziggy, our ginger cocker spaniel. Walking him brought a structure to our day, he gave us unconditional love even when we were grumpy and depressed about what was going on. He needed attention and looking after. Having a dog gave us an anchor and a sense of perspective. He showed us that life goes on, no matter how crap it is.

So I decided to do a Paul Auster and write the poem from Ziggy’s point of view. As a dog, I’m sure he’s not alone in spending hours gazing out the window at birds and dogs and humans, pressing his face against the glass, with a desperate urge to get out there and run around. Just like we were (are).

I titled it ‘Walk On’ in honour of Gerry Marsden, who has since sadly departed. That song and that voice make your spine tingle, whatever team you support. As well as having doggy connotations, the title seemed to suggest pressing forward in the face of adversity.

I dropped in various other pop cultural references too, including Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell and Bob Marley. And, though I’d salted a couple of clues, kept the reveal (that we were hearing a dog’s thoughts) to the very end.

Considering Harry had never met (or indeed seen) Ziggy, and that he had limited himself to a black and red palette, his accompanying illustration was uncanny.

Pleased to say that the book easily hit its Kickstarter target, was successfully published, and raised funds for a worthwhile cause. Hats off to Harry for putting the whole caboodle together.

You can get hold of your very own beautifully printed copy by visiting Harry’s dedicated Etsy page. They cost £10 + £3 p&p and your money will go to the good people at www.platfform.org.

click to download pdf.