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Recent poetry events - Warwickshire

Imtiaz Dharker

Recent poetry events

Imtiaz Dharker online!

On Easter Monday, 5th April, Warwickshire Libraries hosted a virtual reading from award-winning poet Imtiaz Dharker via Microsoft Teams. The event opened with a short reading by the Warwickshire Young Poet Laureate, Ruby Murphy before Imtiaz shared with the attendees some of her latest work, inspired by both the events of 2020 and the lockdown. After an opening collection of poems that explored how relationships had been impacted by lockdown and how our feelings had adjusted to a new way of living, the floor was opened to questions. Attendees watching in New York and more locally in Warwickshire asked questions about inspiration, the process of writing and the impact of Lockdown on both. Imtiaz then treated the audience to a second set of some of her best known poetry.


Poetry postcard launch!

What a lovely evening we had at Rugby library last Thursday , 23rd November.  It was a celebration of poetry, spotlighting all  the Postcard Poets whose poems appear on the poetry postcards,distributed to all libraries in the West Midlands. 
The audience were privileged to hear all 8 poets, the very best local voices of our time. They were Sara-Jane Arbury, Simon Fletcher, Jonny Fluffypunk, Philip Monks, Jeff Phelps, Emma Purshouse, Brenda Read-Brown, and Dave Reeves. The poems were moving, sad, funny and thought-provoking, creating a warm and unforgettable evening on a dark and cold November day. 
Jan Dawson, Librarian

It's been busy in Warwickshire...

Roy McFarlane launched his first volume of poetry Beginning with your Last Breath at Rugby library on Wednesday 9th November . This was a wonderfully intimate and moving evening, as Roy performed his very personal poetry.  Thanks to Nine Arches Press for enabling this to happen. 
Two weeks later, on Tuesday 22nd November, Ben Norris brought his wonderful show The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Family  to Rugby library, as part of his nationwide tour.  Ben is a spoken word artist and poet, and presented his energetic, moving and funny show to an appreciative audience of 50 plus. Everyone loved the performance, and were happy to go on the journey with Ben down the M1 in search of the father he never really knew. A truly memorable and entertaining evening. 
Folk singer Jim Causley was in Leamington library on Tuesday 6th December, to sing songs from his album Cypress Well , which set his late relative, Charles Causley's poetry to music. A lovely and uplifting evening of poetry and song,and Jim won over the audience with his stories and melodic voice. This was a very special event. 

Warwickshire Libraries unveils an artwork reflecting library customers' responses to poetry

Jan Dawson of Warwickshire Libraries reports:
Warwickshire Libraries hosted a successful evening at Kenilworth Library on National Poetry Day (Thurs 6th Oct) to launch the Wall of Words sculpture by Ann Loscombe.  Ann was commissioned by the Libraries' Warwickshire Poetry Voices project to work with library users to create an artwork reflecting customer responses to poetry.  She met over 250 people across all the libraries of Warwick District over the summer and gathered their favourite line of poetry and then a single word from that line to put into her sculpture.  The resulting artwork has the look of a tree with all 230 words included in it and an accompanying book which then refers viewers back to the poetry which inspired the choice of words and the reasons individuals made their choices.  The sculpture will tour libraries after a few weeks at Kenilworth.
This has been an inspirational project for engaging with customers of all ages, many of whom did not at the outset see themselves as relating to poetry in any way.
The evening also saw the launch of the process to select the Young Poet Laureate for 2017, using a new film featuring the two Laureates to date, Lauren Parsons (2015) and Harry Jenkins (2016).  We are grateful both to Arts Council England for general project funding and more specifically to Warwick District Council who helped to fund this particular project - and also of course to Poetry on Loan.  It was wonderful to have a mix of guests at the evening including local and county councillors.  Harry Jenkins and his mentor for the year, local poet Matt Black, recited their own poetry to great enthusiasm from the audience.


Poetry and dance

Warwickshire Libraries worked with Motionhouse Dance Company (based in Leamington) who ran a week of free workshops for teenagers in August 2015 in Warwick at the Lord Leycester Hospital; funded by the King Henry VIII Endowment Fund.

The programme was called Fusion and built on a dance performance by Motionhouse called "Captive". This in turn was based on Rilke's poem The Panther.  Participants at Fusion were ably led by Claire Benson who helped them choreograph their own performance on the theme of captivity. The young people visited Warwick Library at the start of the week where they met Lauren Parsons, our Young Poet Laureate, who, with staff from the library service, talked to them about the power of poetry and introduced them to a wide range of old and new poems to inspire their dance creations. The end of the week saw a performance in Market Square by the young people. Lauren opened this with a reading of The Panther and also a new poem of her own called Captive. Following the teenagers' own impressive performance, Motionhouse dancers then performed "Captive". The square was packed and included a number of local councillors, notably the mayors of all the local district and town councils. Their support was greatly appreciated. Once again Lauren showed her talent as our Laureate, not only composing and performing a new poem, but interacting well with the crowd too. Lauren's poem is published here and this film clip shows her reading it again after the open-air performance, in Warwick Library.



Warwickshire Poetry Voices

The Warwickshire Poetry Voices project is now at the end of its first year of funding, and they've made a video to explain what it has all been about. You can watch it here


Ian McMillan and Tony Husband hit Nuneaton

Poet Ian McMillan and cartoonist Tony Husband took in Nuneaton Library on their tour entitled A Cartoon History of Here .  170 people aged 10 to over 80 and a guide dog who barked every time the audience clapped (which was a lot!) had a non-stop laughing session as Ian recounted his previous exploits on tours and then worked with the audience to produce a somewhat unusual poem and song celebrating Nuneaton.  

As Ian talked, Tony drew cartoons picking up the bizarre themes that emerged starting with "Midnight at Nuneaton Library". Tony also drew pictures that were not quite as expected as he illustrated words in a slightly different way so "doner kebabs" became "Donkey Babs" - a rather fetching female of the species!

Several of the younger members of the audience helped Ian, and everyone had to recite the poem adding new phrases every time.  It was quite amazing that Nuneaton's two most famous people - Larry Grayson and George Eliot - were worked into the poem by very determined audience members.  I'm not sure what either of them would have thought of the literary merits of the final piece, but the audience were in stitches.

Ian and Tony both signed copies of their books for a long while afterwards.  There was lovely feedback from a number of audience members and Ian himself said several times it was one of the best-organised events he had ever had on his tours.


Poetry by heart

The regional final (Coventry and Warwickshire schools) of the Poetry by Heart competition was held at Rugby Library on February 7th, 2015. Matt Black was there, and he wrote a poem for the finalists. Here it is:

The memory-shop

Because everything you remember
And everything that happens to you
Is stored somewhere inside your body,
Which is like a big memory-shop, or a warehouse
Of adventures, or even a treasure-filled city,
With some memories still bright and sharp,
Others on a high shelf, or in a rusty box,
Or in jam-jars, or in your own inner
Library of re-written Mr. Men books,
So I like to imagine filing-cabinets and drawers
Hidden all around me, my primary school years
Stored inside toes, ankles, knees,
My teenage summers alive and well
And still burning bright in my shoulders.
So where will I store today,
Saturday, 7th February, 2015, in Rugby Library,
And where will your poem go to rest in your body
That is now so alive in your memory?
In your legs, so it can lead you to the river
In your ears, like a soundtrack to calm you as you walk down city streets
In your mind, to unwind the answers from the apple-trees
In your knees perhaps, those words might protect your knees
From rain, or from aching days, or overhot sunshine
In your heart, so you can love those words and one day tell them to a future lover
In your hips, your poem might ride with you into clubs and onto dance-floors
In your voice, so you can talk your past into your future
In your spirit, one more speck of a day to help shape you forever
In your eyes, for that poem might be your personal star to steer by
And if you are thinking, by next week I might have forgotten those words,
There will be a quiet moment, when you are twenty-seven,
Or thirty-four, or forty-two, staring out of the window
In your sitting-room, or standing on a bridge on holiday in Venice,
And a little voice comes back to you,
Speaks your first line again...

Matt Black

Love in Leamington

Follwing the success of last year's Love in Leamington, this year's event, on 12th February, had to be even bigger and better - and it was. Seven local poets - Julie Boden, Roz Goddard, Spoz, Roy McFarlane, Maria and Jonathan Taylor and Charlie Jordan - were commissioned to write new poems on the theme of love, which were set to original jazz music by Steve Tromans, assisted by percussionist Lydia Glanville and vocalist Alison Symons.

The poems were interspersed with Steve's original takes on some jazz classics. Host was Dave Reeves from Radio Wildfirewhere you can hear it all: www.radiowildfire.com/loveinleam Do listen in! All recording and sound was done by Chris Radley.

Although the evening was bad weather-wise, the turnout was 70 people, although unfortunately some who had reserved tickets didn't make it. For those who did, the atmosphere was most relaxed, like being in a jazz club, as someone remarked, and it was all helped along by wine and chocs, suitably heart-shaped.! This was a truly warm and inspiring evening, and our thanks go to Poetry on Loan for sponsoring the poets.

This was the second concert in our Love in Leamington series ,and we look forward to the next!


Other news

Warwickshire has just appointed two poets in residence - Roy McFarlane and Gina Biggs.


Previous years:

In the past couple of years, we have been lucky enough to present evenings with Andrew Motion and Ian McMillan at Warwick. We have also hosted Elvis McGonagall at Atherstone and Paul Cookson at Bedworth. All of these had excellent audiences.

Last February, we worked with local poet Julie Boden to present a concert in Leamington Library , Love in Leamington  which set some of Julie’s love poems to original music composed for the night, and was hosted by Roz Goddard. This was a really successful evening, with over 100 people in the audience, and seems likely to be repeated in the future.