Northernness isn’t easy to define. It’s intrinsic, bone-deep. So when the Editor of Northern Soul, Helen Nugent, asked our Poetry Correspondent to write a poem on this subject for the 2018 Northern Soul Awards, we knew it was no small task. Of course, Wendy Pratt was up to the challenge, as you can see below.
What I Mean When I Say I’m a Northerner
When I say I’m a northerner
what I mean is that I eat my dinner
at tea time. What I’m really saying is
I know the value of a big coat and know
the prickle of clean air in my lungs.
When I say I’m a northerner I mean
I don’t trust flat landscapes
and my knees are designed
for walking at an angle.
When I say I’m from the land beyond
the midlands, I mean we are birds of a feather
being drawn home and that the lit windows
of the Calder valley houses are our landing lights.
What I really mean is this: I feel my Northernness
like a river in my mouth, speaking the light trill
and pebbled ring of my people.
I’m saying that I’ve burnt my knees
on the wax-wet paper of Filey fish and chips
and that this is my home. I’m saying I’ve watched
sixty thousand runners pour across the Tyne bridge
this is also my home. I mean
I’ve slicked my heels on Manchester’s streets
and felt the zing of Sheffield steel and know
the Pennines to be my backbone and the black swathe
of the moors to be my dream-time and what I really mean
when I say I’m from the North is that I know
where my home is, and I know who my people are
because we eat our dinner at tea time
and we call each other love.
By Wendy Pratt, Poetry Correspondent