WHEN Matt Black was a lad he would write words and verse to woo girls he liked.
“You might laugh,” he says. “But it was surprisingly effective - they appreciated a softer side.”
For the last two years he has been wooing an entire county: the one-time director of creative writing at Sheffield University has been the fourth official Poet Laureate of Derbyshire.
He has travelled the land, met its people, witnessed its traditions and enjoyed its fuddles; and all the time he has penned poems in an attempt to capture the region in the early 21st century.
Now, as his term comes to an end (and he prepares to publish a resulting anthology), he is sitting with The Diary reflecting on this unusual (and enjoyable) 24 months.
“Let’s see,” says the 56-year-old of Belgrave Square, Highfield, checking his notebook computer. “There have been 52 official events, 63 workshops, and I’ve written 49 new poems - 13 of which have gone up in public spaces. How many times have I been called ‘duck’? Too many to count.”
His post - an official placement appointed by Derbyshire County Council - has taken him to markets and mills; estates and stately homes (“from Glossop to Chatsworth”); and to one school where staff were expecting, er, Carol Ann Duffy.
“The national Poet Laureate!” he says. “They said they were going to bake a cake to celebrate but seeing as it was only me they didn’t bother. I wrote a...revenge poem.”
Other works - some funny, some moving, some which could fit in a tweet - feature on everything from Derbyshire staples (Eyam, the Peaks, well-dressing) to the more obscure, such as the two poems about taxi drivers in Chesterfield.
“I wrote the first when I pictured them as these noble ferrymen,” remembers the father-of-two who was appointed after an interview despite having no links to Derbyshire. “Then I spent the morning with a few drivers and realised it was more...down-to-Earth. One told me how he’d stood having a fag while his mate entertained a woman in the cab. He left the metre running and charged him £12. Great material for a poem, that.”
Now, his work can be viewed around the county - one’s on glass at Ashbourne Library, another’s on a wall at Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock and 11 feature on newly installed milestones following the Olympic torch route. The rest can be read his anthology, titled fittingly Footsteps and Fuddles.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says. “Derbyshire is a county you can’t help but be inspired by.”
Footsteps And Fuddles is available at matt-black-words.co.uk