With an open mic or poetry performance event almost every week, local culture flourishes in the Black Country. Regulars on the local scene, poets John and Liz Mills, husband and wife, also travel the country for poetry events, workshops and festivals. Other poets in the Midlands find the couple “inspiring”.
Gravity, humour and breath-taking poetry performance
I met John at Southcart Books & Comics, one of the venues hosting poetry events in Walsall. He read couple of poems about Parkinson’s, which he has been diagnosed with 4 years ago. Often writing about difficult, serious matters, in a humorous way, John accepts his condition as something he needs to live with.
Not long after the event at Southcart book store, his wife Liz performed at Cafe del Nino, in Cannock, another local venue turned into a hub for art and poetry. Her performing skills and passion charged words turned the audience quiet and almost breathless. She too writes about tragic things – her mother’s death, hit by a bus, her father’s harshness. Recently though Liz found inspiration women’s stories through history, their hopes and their struggles.
How two poets marry a shedload of creative pursuis
Despite so actively engaged with the local scene, John and Liz rarely talk about themselves as such. They tell their stories rather than lay out achievements of the past and present. To find out how the two poets met and how they manage such diverse creative interests under the same roof, I visited them in their home in Stone, Stoke-on-Trent.
Spending a few hours together, we talked about John’s love for music and his memories as an English teacher motivated by his students, but weighed down by the paperwork stress. I admired Liz’ miniature houses, inspired by love for history and for all things creative. And we went for lunch at their favourite place in town, The Secret Tea Room. John held a poetry workshop here in the past and one of his poems is displayed on the wall, by the shop window.
You can watch the result of my visit into the poets’ domestic universe in the video below, built as a documentary type interview.
Because I asked them to, Liz&John Mills put together a self-description for me to publish.
John Mills taught English for 30 years
Since retiring from teaching John Mills has devoted his time to poetry; performing at events and festivals all over the country. He is a prize winner and has been published in many online and print books and magazines. Never afraid to explore the, “Dark Places,” he can make you laugh or cry and bring the essential out of the common place. He taught English for 30 years, and also worked as a student mentor for Keele and taught Media Studies for a short time too. John also used to do caving.
Liz performed since the age of three
Liz has enjoyed being creative all her life – cooking, knitting, sewing, making dolls’ house miniatures, gardening, poetry. She started acting and performing before she was three and has never stopped. As a teacher, she was even paid for it! Brought up in Scotland and England, she trained to teach Drama but taught English and Religious Education in High Schools, which developed her interest in other religions and cultures.
Below, you can hear the two poems they performed in front of the camera on the day of the interview.