Poetry on Loan is a great innovation. By bringing librarians together from across the West Midlands it has created a forum for networking, sharing ideas and communication.
With the help of our co-ordinator, we:
- Present live poetry performances and readings, to groups that range from the hard-to-reach and young people, to the general public and to groups with a particular interest in poetry.
- Arrange poetry workshops, both reading and writing, in which an experienced poet leads groups into an understanding of contemporary poetry and helps them to write their own work.
- Support Poet Laureate and Young Poet Laureate schemes across the West Midlands. The Laureates themselves spread further the word about poetry.
- Commission new poetry from poets in and near the region. Selected poems are used for specially-designed poetry postcards, which are distributed to every library authority in the West Midlands, free for anyone to take away, and read, and use. 2019 was our 20th anniversary, so the theme for the postcard poems was Anniversary. In previous years, we've had themes such as Come with me... , Onwards and upwards, and Home-made, home-grown.
- Publish lists of recommended poetry books.
- Run training courses for library staff and poets. In 2011-2012, when our focus was on health and wellbeing, these were about working with groups of vulnerable people. In 2013-2015 we looked closely at local features, traditions and collections, and in our training courses a visual artist helped library staff and poets find ways to encourage people to look and listen and touch, and turn the visual into words. In other years we've focused on working with older people and with young people; on performance and making videos, and on running events.
- Work with partners, such as Writing West Midlands, the Ledbury Poetry Festival, Apples and Snakes, etc. to co-ordinate poetry activities in the region.
Poetry on Loan accomplishments
In our last complete Arts Council funding period, Poetry on Loan:
- employed 70 poets and other artists;
- worked with 1589 participants in workshops;
- entertained 1669 people with live poetry events.
Poetry on Loan is reaching more people and is helping to dispel poetry prejudice – poetry all too often is seen as intellectual snobbery, a closed club for the strictly esoteric. What we’ve got to do is get poetry out there and Poetry on Loan is an excellent vehicle on which to so do.
None of this work would be possible without the support of Arts Council England, for which we are most grateful.