Poetry Happening Near You

Recent poetry events - Birmingham

Bringing back memories at Acocks Green library

Roz Goddard visited Acocks Green Library on 24th May for a reminiscence and poetry workshop. The theme of the workshop was “place” and how a certain space can bring back memories. At least three people became quite emotional as they recalled tender memories. Their feelings were handled respectfully and sensitively by Roz Goddard and the group were supportive of each other even though many of them had only met for the first time that afternoon. The library felt the session went extremely well -  everyone enjoyed it and several people asked if there could be another workshop. One or two people asked if the group could continue to meet at the library and carry on exploring the themes brought up in the session. Perhaps they will start building up new memories!


Casey Bailey online

For Black History Month, 2021, Casey was due to give a live reading at one of Birmigham's community libraries, but in these times it was difficult to arrange. Instead, Casey recorded a whole reading for us. It's in two parts: part 1 is here, and part 2 is here.


Spoz works wonders with teenagers

In February 2020, Spoz worked with a small group of teenagers at Bloomsbury Library. Library assistant Adele Burns says:

It was nice for the library to be able to offer an interactive session for teenagers as most of our sessions are for 0-11 year olds or adults. All who attended got a reallypersonal experience. Spoz was lovely and approachable and got the youngsters writing and performing some poetry which was great as some had expressed concern about ‘doing poetry’ beforehand.I think it’s broadened their opinion and helped with confidence.


Richard O'Brien reads to the readers

Richard O’Brien, Birmingham Poet Laureate 2018-2020, visited Weoley Castle Library’s Readers’ Circle on Friday 29th November for a poetry reading followed by a Q&A session.  Richard’s poems touched on a number of interesting topics: Adult Education; the founding of Birmingham; the history of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter; and Shakespeare’s First Folio.  He delivered his poems in a lively, engaging manner and had fantastic rapport with the audience.  The poems that reflected the history of the Jewellery Quarter were of particular interest to some audience members, having worked in this area themselves during the 1950s.  All in all, a very enjoyable morning. 

Spoz at Northfield library Family Day

Spoz visited Northfield Library on 8th August to participate in the library’s family day.  Spoz read the audience some of his poetry to begin with, then helped the children develop some poetry, including rhyming couplets with the theme of chocolate. There was a lot of laughter and audience participation. At the end, library staff asked if everyone had enjoyed themselves - and there was a resounding 'YES!'


Ben Westwood at Weoley Castle library

Musician, poet, campaigner and author, Ben Westwood, visited Weoley Castle Library on 30th November.  He read selections from his debut book, Poems from a Runaway, which reflected on his childhood years as a runaway, living rough on the streets of London from age twelve.  His poems were heartfelt and humorous in equal measure, and Ben received very positive feedback from the crowd.  This was followed by a very interesting Q&A session. 

Spoz at Kings Norton library Family Day

Kings Norton Library hosted its annual ‘family day’ on 31st July and were delighted to be joined by local poet, Spoz. Spoz was very engaging and enthused his audience with great encouragement, especially the children where it helped them with early development of expressing themselves and their poetry. He made good use of props and resources such as an easel, guitar, microphone, poetry books and speakers, manipulating beatbox sound effects which added rhythm. Everybody really enjoyed the session and it would be great if he could return very soon.


Urdu poetry at Ward End library

Ward End Library was delighted to host a wonderful afternoon of Urdu poetry (Mushaira) on Saturday 3rd February.  The event featured a mixture of new and emerging poets alongside eminent guests from across the country.  It was presented by respected author, Saba Imtiaz, and over the course of two hours the audience were treated to some amazingly vibrant poetry, filled with emotion and humour.  The event attracted 38 people and we had some very positive feedback… mostly, ‘When can we do this again?!’   

Farwa Meer- a new and emerging poet, recited her poems which were greatly appreciated by seniors, based on a romantic theme.

Jeem Jazil- Birmingham, good choice of words, well timed 

Iqbal Bhatti- from Birmingham, the body language and voice tone was excellent.

Dr.Saqib Nadeem- came from Birmingham, an articulate poet presented his heart touching poem to the audience.

Arif Khawaja- loves eastern values, his poetry was based on love to the homeland.

Iqbal Naveed- a journalist by profession, confident body language.

Dr.Maqbool Gilani- a Punjabi and Urdu poet from Pakistan. He recited his Punjabi poem that is well liked by the audience.

Shahbaz Khawaja- a contemporary poet from London, created a strong emotional reaction to audience, clear pace with great choice of words.

Saleem Figar- a well-established poet from London, well-chosen words

Dr.Razia Ismail- has awarded MBE for her literary services. She is famous for her feministic poems and recited some of her known and popular verses.

Yashab Tamanna- a very well known popular name in Urdu literature, came from London. Yashab has recently published his second book of poems. He engaged hearts of audiences by some of his new and popular poems, engaging well-paced timings and successfully delivered his poems.

Basir Sultan Kazmi came from Manchester is an eminent poet in Urdu Literature. His poetry is for the mainstream, audiences thoroughly enjoyed his performance, style and expressions.



Instant poetry in John Lewis

"Poets Jonny Fluffypunk and Jane Seabourne hosted a pop-up poetry event in Birmingham’s John Lewis store on Monday 18th December.  Over the course of two hours, Jonny and Jane crafted one-of-a-kind poems for about 20 festive shoppers and their loved ones.  This was a very enjoyable and relaxed event, with both poets displaying professionalism and great humour.”  That's what librarian Stephen Callow had to say, and here’s a selection of comments from people who had poems written for them:

“I really admire you; I think that’s amazing.”

“That’s absolutely beautiful.”

“That’s so quick – it would take me forever to write a poem like that.”

“Poetry is like great music.”

“That’s wonderful – it makes you stop and think.”

“Really creative.”

It's another example of the willingness of Poetry on Loan libraries to take poetry to people wherever they are and whatever they're doing!


As I mentioned previously, we had direct engagement with 19 adults and 2 children

Poetry on the terraces

On Saturday the 19th August 2017 as part of the Libraries Cultural offer in conjunction with Writing West Midlands and the Arts Council England, The Library of Birmingham hosted "Poetry on the Terraces" .

It was a free event and taking part were local poets Kurly McGeachie, Matt Windle, Joe Cook and Nyanda Foday (left to right in the photo). While listening to the poetry you could take in the stunning views over Birmingham from our Level 3 Terrace.


AFHarrold for families again - this time at Kings Norton library

 A. F. Harrold's session for families at Northfield library was such a succcess that he came back to Brimingham - but this time to Kings Norton library. Famous as a children’s author and poet for all ages, A.F. Harrold visited Kings Norton Library on 27th July to participate in the library’s family day.  Ashley’s poetry session attracted 38 people and there was lots of audience participation and positive feedback.  Staff at the library would highly recommend Ashley to other libraries/authorities. 

AFHarrold for families at Northfield library

Renowned poet, writer and performer, A.F. Harrold, visited Northfield Library on 18th April to participate in the library’s Family Day.  The poetry session lasted for 60 minutes and was well attended by a mixture of children, parents and grandparents.  Reading a selection of poems, Ashley kept his audience’s attention with the animated and expressive way he read his poetry, often making everyone laugh.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and those in attendance praised Ashley’s professionalism and wit.

Roz Goddard at Shard End library

Roz Goddard visited Shard End Library on 3rd November, to host an intergenerational themed workshop that explored poetry through the use of historical objects and photographic material.  The session went really well and was enjoyed by all who took part.  There were 8 participants and the theme of memories of parents/grandparents sparked some really interesting discussion and revelations!  While some participants had previous experience of writing poetry, others had never written any before, but thanks to Roz’s encouragement, everyone managed to come up with something after the two hours.  These pieces were very powerful and moved us to tears. The only downside was it wasn’t enough as everyone wants to do more!

Here’s some feedback from the event:

“Hope to come again, very nice warm group of people.  Thank you.”

“It’s been really lovely and I hope you have another one”.

“Very enjoyable and helpful. More please!!”

“Brilliant, thoroughly enjoyed it.  Would like a follow up.”

“Great session but needs to be continued.  Good group and facilitator.  Didn’t know what to expect but thoroughly enjoyed it.”


Roz Goddard at Northfield Library

In the run-up to National Poetry Day, Roz Goddard visited Northfield Library’s poetry group on 4th October to host an intergenerational themed workshop that explored poetry through the use of historical objects and photographic material.  Roz provided a number of interesting objects as prompts and those in attendance were asked to bring along their own objects to the workshop - objects which held associations to their parents or grandparents – before completing a series of short poetry exercises.  The event was well-attended and members of the group praised Roz’s enthusiasm, skill and professionalism.


Adrian Blackledge at Shard End

Adrian Blackledge, Birmingham Poet Laureate, visited Shard End Library’s Book Group on 21st March to help celebrate World Poetry Day.  Adrian read a selection of his poems and this was followed by a Q&A session.  This highly enjoyable event was well attended and generated some very positive feedback: 

“Very enjoyable and informative.  Good insight into ways of poet and particularly answering task of writing to order on a specific topic.  Wish session could have gone on longer.  Well organised.  More please!”

“A very interesting and inspiring session.  It is not very often that we get the opportunity to hear a poet read his own work locally, and to have Birmingham’s poet laureate was a real treat.  Many thanks.”


David Hart reads

David Hart visited Weoley Castle Library on Friday 29th January, reading selections from his latest poetry book in front of a capacity audience.  ‘Library Inspector’ is a requiem to libraries and the power of books: David’s poetry resonated particularly well in a library environment and the sentiment of his words was not lot on the audience.  Another highly enjoyable event!


Roz and the Readers

Roz Goddard visited the Weoley Castle Readers' Circle in September and November to host two poetry workshops, exploring poetry through the use of historical objects and photographic material. Those in attendance completed a series of short poetry exercises, designed to uncover their own unique poetic voice. Both sessions were well-attended and highly enjoyable!

National Poetry Day at Weoley Castle library

Weoley Castle Library celebrated National Poetry Day with a colourful display, featuring a range of poems by poets from the West Midlands and a selection of poetry books that focussed on the theme of ‘light’.  This proved to be quite a talking point, with lots of discussion amongst library borrowers about favourite poems and poets, and plenty of books were borrowed.  A very enjoyable day!


Adrian Blackledge gives Weoley Castle's Reading Circle a treat

Adrian Blackledge, Birmingham Poet Laureate 2014-15, visited Readers’ Circle at Weoley Castle Library on 24th April.  Adrian delighted members of the group by reading poems on a diverse range of subjects: foraging for mushrooms, becoming a grandparent, Remembrance Day, Seamus Heaney, Malala Yousafzai, and Valentine’s Day  to name but a few.  There was also a Q&A session afterwards during which Adrian discussed the inspiration behind his poems and how important poetry is to the fabric of the city.  All in all, a well-attended and thoroughly enjoyable event! Thanks to Stephen Callow for this report.


Joanna Skelt visits Weoley Castle's Reading Circle

Joann Skelt gave a talk to Weoley Castle's Reading Circle on 25th July. Joanna enthralled the members with stories that took them from Sierra Leone to Sparkhill on swift’s wings and overcrowded poda poda*…oh yes, and wonderful poetry too!

(*Perhaps we should explain a poda poda is a private bus. "If you are just heading into the city for a bit of shopping then you could hop on private buses otherwise known as poda-poda! They can be a bit of a squeeze but this mode or transport can give you a fascinating insight on life in Sierra Leone - from the view point of fellow passengers or the driver! Expect loud music and look out for amusing quotes on the front and back of poda podas.")


Weoley Castle Heritage Day

What better way to learn about Weoley Castle's heritage than to mix talks with poetry? And the Heritage Day on 21st November  went down an absolute bomb, with a good crowd for both morning and afternoon sessions. Kirsty gave a talk on the ruins, and Stephen, a member of staff at the library, talked about thenew phone app for the Weoley Collection (some 2000 images of Weoley); then Paganel school pupils talked about their archive and as children do stole everyone's hearts.

Time for poetry, and Roz Goddard did a session with a special interlude for riddles which captured the children's imagination as well as fitting in with the history/mythology theme.  Lunch was great too - the local Asda store donated a huge chocolate cake and there was plenty of networking going on.  Richard Burden MP turned up, as did three local councillors! The children conducted interviews with library clients for their archive as well as filming and taking photos for their website and blog. 

Spoz kicked off the afternoon with more poetry and had everyone in stitches. Wendy, a local historian did her bit on the Saxon links to the area - very academic but very interesting too.

The final poetry session was from Stephen Morrison-Burke, who has a hypnotic voice that transported everyone in the room. The audience were entranced and the casual library user who wandered up the stairs got a pleasant surprise: The day ended with a discussion on Heritage Lottery and the new Library of Birmingham, but the poetry wasn't finished - librarian Philip Benjamin-Coker gave out lots of Poetry Postcards and revived, in one display, the patchwork quilt poem that was created Emma Purshouse from a former PoL funded "Weoley Castle Is" session with elderly ladies reminiscing about the area.

What a great day!


Fred D’Aguiar’s GPS

Poetry On Loan has proved to be an excellent mechanism for poetry provision across West Midlands’ public libraries, both for local and national poets. In October 2009 they provided internationally acclaimed poet Fred D’Aguiar. He was scheduled to perform at Weoley Castle library at 2 pm and a good audience was assembled, aquiver with anticipation.

The time arrived but no poet – a phone called revealed that Fred’s GPS had sent him in the wrong direction. So the poet was on his way but how to keep the audience entertained until he arrived? Thankfully there were poets in the and among the library staff who stepped into the breach. Former Birmingham Poet Laureate, Chris Morgan did a bit,

 as did library assistant Derrick D

and even yours truly, Philip Benjamin-Coker.

Fred arrived, at last, with poetry in full flow and many apologies – all was forgiven as his beautiful resonant voice filled the air with words.

Philip Benjamin-Coker