Over the years, whenever I’ve attended a reading featuring a variety of poets, there always tends to be at least one poet I hadn’t heard before.
Take for example a recent reading at Sonnets for Shakespeare, a special reading focusing on Sonnets and other work inspired by William Shakespeare, a piece was read on behalf of a writer long since passed away and forgotten about, Harold Percival Kingston.
Upon some research, it became apparent that Kingston was born in 1895 and grew up in the family drapery store at 26 Cross Street, Willenhall, and was awarded a BA degree with honours at Birmingham University in 1925, followed by an MA in 1932. He spent his whole career working in schools; including Queen Mary`s Grammar School in Walsall and Bilston Grammar School, where he became headmaster for the last 6 years, before retiring in 1955 at the age of 60 years. He died the following year without leaving behind any children.
Tragically, his work was forgotten until an octogenarian called Oliver Johnson from Southport tracked down Bob Rushton from the Willenhall History Society to donate an old suitcase last year. Within this case was a series of poetry, watercolours and some of Harold’s awards for his writing.
Unfortunately, among his poetry, there was a considerable quantity of hand-written poetry that was frankly unreadable and needed to be translated.
It was at this point when Poet Ian Henery became involved.
“Bob Rushton gave me the poems, and I paid for the services of a professional translator to decipher Harold’s handwriting,” he says. “A lot of the poetry was written in the 1920s and he clearly excelled at English Literature, being awarded the Bunce Prize and for 2 years running, the Student Association Prize for Poetry. Harold was inspired by the style of Thomas Hardy and A.E. Housman but what was important, for me, was to hear the voice of a Willenhall poet from that era who had been forgotten to time. I wanted him to sing again and for all of us to be given the opportunity of hearing his voice once more.”
Ian who is co-chairing Sonnets for Shakespeare with Lucy Heuchen at the prestigious Annual British Graduate Shakespeare Conference (BritGrad Festival). On 16 September 2020 Ian gave an exclusive, special reading of Harold’s Poem ‘Shakespeare’s Tongue’. I was at this reading and it was magical and certainly was not out of place among the other writers.
Something I think would have pleased Harold Percival Kingston endlessly.
The poem can be read at this link https://www.sonnetsforshakespeare.co.uk/the-anthology/shakespeares-tongue
More details for Sonnets for Shakespeare can be read at: https://www.sonnetsforshakespeare.co.uk/