Tales of the Jury Room

Poetry Collection by Albert Semple

Collection of narrative poems in homage to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 — 25 Oct 1400) within a present-day frame narrative.

I was introduced to Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' at University, and liked the way that he had represented a cross section of his contemporary society in the frame narrative, and used this to enclose a diverse set of stories.

However, in order to access the poetry, you need to be able to decipher the Middle English vocabulary and be aware of the historical context. You could always read a translation in Modern English (and with explanatory footnotes), but these invariably lose the metre and or rhyme scheme of the original, so don't do the original justice.

I liked the idea of a modern frame-narrative poem, similar to the original but accessible to a much wider audience. 'The Traveller's Tale' — a pastiche of Burns' 'Tam O'Shanter' was my first contribution, with the first part of 'The Mother's Tale' written soon after.

Then life got in the way and the work didn't progress for over a decade — but the dusty handwritten notes moved around with me in a box full of old papers.

In the intervening time, I'd also been called up and served for jury service, and decided this was the closest modern-equivalent setting to Chaucer's pilgrimage, with complete cross-section of society represented, held captive together for a matter of weeks, and in need of entertainment. So I wrote the Prologue describing this setting and our 'pilgrims' (or rather, jurors).

It's an unfinished collection which I'll continue to add to. Chaucer never finished his tales, so I don't feel under pressure to finish mine!