Winning poet thinking Moor about the past

Michael Glover
Michael Glover
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IT all begun for Michael Glover with his uncle’s mysterious red notebook.

There wasn’t much reading material in the small two-up-two-down Fir Vale terrace where, as a 1950s child, he lived cheek-by-jowl with his grandparents, mother, sister and said mother’s brother.

But there was always that red jotter in which the quiet, occasionally brooding Uncle Kenneth would sit writing stories and recollections.

“I never read it,” says Michael. “It was intensely personal but the sight of him writing in it had a profound impact on me. It was exciting. I knew just watching him I wanted to be a writer.”

Today, Michael Glover is a highly respected London-based literary critic and a published poet of six books.

Perhaps more excitingly he is to become the latest in a line of wordsmiths whose work will be woven into the fabric of Sheffield city centre when a series of his poems are writ large on The Moor.

They will be painted on the hoardings which, for the next two years, will surround the construction site of the new market building.

He was chosen after site owners Scottish Widows decided to decorate the hoardings with cultural reference points, and there is even talk that one poem – a work celebrating the street’s heritage – could be given a permanent place in the building itself.

“It’s an honour,” says the 62-year-old down the phone from his Clapham home. “I love Sheffield and my memories of The Moor are still so vivid and full of life.”

As indeed are his poems.

Michael may have left his Coningsby Road home when he was 18 but his work is full of Redgates toys, Fargate milk bars and little mesters.

“It’s strange,” he muses. “Because as you get older you find yourself returning to your roots more, and I have found myself writing about, for example, the back yard toilet in Fir Vale or the old tin bath my mum would haul up from the cellar where me and my sister washed. You realise the place you grew up does influence you for the rest of your life.”

The rest of that life, then, started when he left for Cambridge University.

He was the first person in his family to go to university after a teacher at Fir Park Grammar School nurtured that love of literature which is uncle’s incessant writing had first sparked.

“When I told my mum, Dorothy, she and my uncle were very supportive and very proud,” says Michael. “But I owe a great deal to that teacher, Stanley Cook.”

After finishing uni, the father-of-two worked in publishing for some time before becoming a freelance art critic working for The Times and now The Independent and a part time poet.

His first book, Measured Lives, was published in 1994, and his seventh, Only So Much, will be released in September. But for now he is excited about The Moor.

“My Uncle Kenneth lives in Bingley now,” he says. “But I think he’d be proud if he saw it.”

To the Moor

This is the start of Michael Glover’s poem:

Down this gently sloping street,

Down this Mecca of old-fashioned shopping pleasure,

Let my feet go tripping and skipping.

Let old shillings jangle in my pocket

And new notes come spilling.

Let me say those names over to myself –

Pauldens, Atkinsons, Roberts and Redgates.