To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,

Home again, home again, jiggetty-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,

Home again, home again, joggetty-jog.

Yes, today, my poetic friends, I want to go to the market with you. I love markets – is there anything more evocative of a place than its market? The place where local farmers bring their produce, where local craftsmen bring their work, where you can buy eggs and sausages and wild mushrooms and apples and cheap clothes and unbranded socks and local strawberries and baked goods and on and on and on.

For a while, it looked like markets were going to disappear. Big supermarkets moved in, offering perfect tomatoes wrapped in plastic, ranks of tins, sliced bread. I know they have their place, and of course I shop there, but there’s something wonderful about buying a pasty from the woman who baked it, or a punnet of berries from the farmers that grew them. It’s wonderful to be offered a taste of cheese by the man who created it, or a smear of chutney from the cook. We have a local market once a month in our village hall, and a small market in our local town, where you can buy bedding plants, second-hand books, home-made cakes and all sorts of crafty things.

I particularly like to visit a market when I’m on holiday. It’s the best place to see local food traditions in action, and I love watching local people doing their marketing. The chats, the questions, the assessing of quality – you don’t get that in the supermarket.

So, today, let’s go to market. Wherever you are, I’m sure you have one near you that you’ve visited. Or maybe you’ve dropped into the fish market in Venice, or Grand Central Market in New York, or even Kirkgate Market in Leeds. Maybe you have happy memories of a small market in a nameless French provincial town, or a farmer’s market in Virginia.

Here are a couple of inspirations for you:

Jamaica Market by Agnes Maxwell-Hall

Honey, pepper, leaf-green limes,
Pagan fruit whose names are rhymes,
Mangoes, breadfruit, ginger-roots,
Granadillas, bamboo-shoots,
Cho-cho, ackees, tangerines,
Lemons, purple Congo-beans,
Sugar, okras, kola-nuts,
Citrons, hairy cocoanuts,
Fish, tobacco, native hats,
Gold bananas, woven mats,
Plantains, wild-thyme, pallid leeks,
Pigeons with their scarlet beaks,
Oranges and saffron yams,
Baskets, ruby guava jams,
Turtles, goat-skins, cinnamon,
Allspice, conch-shells, golden rum.
Black skins, babel—and the sun
That burns all colours into one.

And this – an extract from Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti

Morning and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:

“Come buy our orchard fruits,

Come buy, come buy:

Apples and quinces,

Lemons and oranges,

Plump unpeck’d cherries,

Melons and raspberries,

Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,

Swart-headed mulberries,

Wild free-born cranberries,

Crab-apples, dewberries,

Pine-apples, blackberries,

Apricots, strawberries;—

All ripe together

In summer weather,—

Morns that pass by,

Fair eves that fly;

Come buy, come buy:

Our grapes fresh from the vine,

Pomegranates full and fine,

Dates and sharp bullaces,

Rare pears and greengages,

Damsons and bilberries,

Taste them and try:

Currants and gooseberries,

Bright-fire-like barberries,

Figs to fill your mouth,

Citrons from the South,

Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;

Come buy, come buy.”

And have a look at this, wonderfully done, using the voices of market traders themselves. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O97CY0BD_A0

Or this one, which captures the energy and excitement of a local market better than anything: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDnJ9dPRgr0

I’m aware that all of these are almost list poems. If that’s not your thing, it doesn’t matter. So long as I get the feel of the market somehow – the goods on offer, the people selling and buying, the smells, the tastes, the sounds. Let your poetry run free!

And you know what to do:

  • Write a poem!
  • Link it to Mr Linky.
  • Do the trail – read and comment on the poems you find there. We all love to be read.
  • Have fun!