World Poetry Day – An Evening of Excitement

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My plans for World Poetry Day started last year when I discovered I was the first Worcestershire Poet Laureate not to have National Poetry Day on their remit (long story short, a fellow poet had a show the same evening and we decided WLF would support that instead). I became the first Poet Laureate to have World Poetry Day as their official event.

I started planning properly in January and had all the poets confirmed perform by February. Shout outs went out for Little Poems (we received International, National and Local submissions… very worldly for WPD).

WPD SUBMISSION

I also started raiding my research ideas for Parlour/Poetry/Word Games. All the Open Mic Spots were booked within a few days of being released.

I knew I wanted the whole night to feel like a poetry party and that is what was achieved. The atmosphere was set to ENTERTAINMENT, the Poets were set to GOLD, my main concern was getting an audience. I had no idea (other than one or two) who would attend, I only knew the string of apologies I had received from those who couldn’t make it. 

To my delight the Cafe was full. I stayed positive and hoped we would have an influx and we did and what was as wonderful as being supported by poets/friends is we had some new people in the audience too and a few Cafe Bliss regulars.  

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If you missed it – then you certainly missed it – in every stretch of those words because it was an amazing night and a one off experience! ‘Special, magical & unique.’ 

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Firstly I want to thank lots of people and then I will share some of the evening – to give you a taste of the wonder.

Thank you to all the Poet Laureates who agreed to come and perform:

Worcestershire’s Young Poet Laureate Rachel Evans. This was the first time I met Rachel in person. She enjoyed the whole night and it was lovely watching her watch the other performances gleefully.

As for Rachel’s performance, WOW! I heard her on the Radio shortly after the YPL was announced back in January, but even that hadn’t prepared me for the LIVE version. She blew us all away and left me speechless (a rare occurrence)! 

Maggie Doyle, not only did I want to include Maggie as Poet Laureate Emeritus – but also because she was the first (Worcs) poet I met. We met back in 2013 when she was the Poet Laureate. She has always been so supportive of my work. 

Suz Winspear I wanted Suz as she is the Former Poet Laureate and was very good at sharing opportunities when she was in position. Suz is still the Poet in Residence at Royal Worcester Museum and I knew she had some new porcelain poems to share. Suz also helped with the Haiku Raffle which I was grateful for. 

Fergus McGonigal our Headliner and his 2nd Worcester gig within a week! I met Fergus when I started back into poetry in 2013 at Birmingham Literature Festival. He is another person who has been supportive and interested in what I am doing. Thanks for your kind words since and everything in between (this is almost sounding like the introduction he sent me)! 

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Thanks to Martin Driscoll, Tim Stavert, Dan Burton and Charley Barnes for WLF team support. A special thanks to Tim for doing the door and stepping into the Open Mic slot with short notice. 

To all the Open Mic performers for bringing their A Game both in terms of material and performance, a cracking night of celebratory poetry. 

Dan Payne, 

Michael W. Thomas, 

Bob Woodroofe, 

Samatee, 

Tim Stavert, 

Sue Johnson, 

Matt Black.

I wanted 7 open mic poets to represent me being the 7th Poet Laureate and I was in awe of those who travelled out of county to be with us (which is most people on this list)!  

Thanks to every member of the audience – you made my night and I am grateful you came out mid-week to support poetry and have some fun! 

Thanks to Amanda at the ever wonderful Cafe Bliss for allowing us the space to host such a vibrant evening of words!

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Thanks to the Local, National & International Poets who sent their poems for the Take Away. 

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AND HUGE THANKS to Kieran Davis & Claire Walker who donated their publications as prize books and to Polly Stretton for a large haul of Black Pear Press books for the raffle too.

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The Night started with a brief introduction (much briefer than the text copied here) on UNESCO and WPD. I am glad I knew the answers because one of the poets asked me and I was able to give informative responses as opposed to erm, and er…

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Held every year on 21 March, World Poetry Day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity. Practised throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.

UNESCO first adopted 21 March as World Poetry Day during its 30th General Conference in Paris in 1999, with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard. World Poetry Day is the occasion to honour poets, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, foster the convergence between poetry and other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and raise the visibility of poetry in the media. As poetry continues to bring people together across continents, all are invited to join in.

© UNESCO 2018

‘The unique ability for poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind’ (UNESCO) and that’s what we saw happen last night.

I shared a couple of short poems. I had planned on doing a spot myself in the 2nd half but with timing as it was, decided against it. I am glad I kicked the night off (so the 1st open mic poet didn’t actually have to be the 1st poet on). I wrote a brand new poem especially for WPD and shared that as well as one of the less frequently performed poems from Fragile Houses. 

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Then we had the first batch of wonderful open mic-ers. 

Dan Payne‘s performance was brilliant and entertaining. His work touched on political/social aspects of our world in a humorous way. His poem about insomnia and the shipping forecast was a particular favourite of mine, he finished with Pizza Delivery from the End of the Universe which included a planetary joke! A star for going first. 

Bob Woodroofe treated us to poems apt to mark the first day of Spring as well as a prize winning poem about the Caribbean and poems about Lorries and Worcester Cathedral. I always enjoy Bob’s performances and last night was no exception.

Michael W Thomas is a poet I met early on in my Laureateship and it was a pleasure to hear him perform. His latest book ‘The Portswick Imp: Stories 2001-2016’ is coming out soon with Black Pear Press and despite Headlining the night before, he came to share his work with our city. He was the first to get the poetry mmmm, he shared poems about memories from Primary School and children’s TV in the 50s. 

Samatee shared a love poem and a special poem about writing. The image of our words being like trying to catch sand has stayed with me and resonated with every writer in the room. I am grateful to Samatee for coming to perform and for supporting WPD. It was her first time at Cafe Bliss and we loved having her with us. 

Rachel Evans shared her Poet Laureate Winning Poems. Bravo was brilliant. Her performance was incredibly self assured and I can see why she won the competition and also what a great Young Poet Laureate she is. Full of enthusiasm and creative energy. Rachel had a great night and we appreciate her staying for the whole gig. It is incredible to witness her talent. If you ever get the chance to catch her, you should. 

Suz Winspear shared her new work from the Museum Archives with background information, Suz has had a great time running loose in the archives whilst the museum is shut due to refurbishment. Her set was amazing and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. I particularly enjoyed The Village of Blurred Ghosts. I love the cold twists that come at the end of some of Suz’s poems. She also got the poetry mmmmm.

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Before the interval I introduced the room to the Japanese poem form HaiKai (apt after Suz’s set), a collaborative poetry game combining game-play and literature. The room was split into teams and each received part of Worcester to write 5 lines about. There was a complicated syllabic pattern to follow but a room of poets (and you don’t have to be a poet to play) managed the challenge with ease. 

We then had a leisurely interval in which Suz sold every Haiku raffle ticket, people chatted, wrote poems and set the room to full wattage buzz.

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The Blind Book Haiku Raffle took about 2 days of wrapping up – well a few hours over several days. Most of the books had a value of £7+ so a snip at a £1 and everyone kept their Haiku poem too. The Haiku poems took a few hours to research, print and cut up but it was worth every minute and was great fun hearing people share their Haikus, a few ‘Christmassy Cracker’ ones but some deeply profound and moving.

It also gave the audience a chance to join in reading poetry. A few people were lucky enough to win more than one book and despite all being prepared for a redraw we made them take the prize they had won, which delighted them! I know we made someone’s night, as like me – they rarely (if ever) win raffles and they won a book they really wanted too!

Polly Stretton compiled the verses from our Collaborative Haikai and read the poem out to open our 2nd half.

Tim Stavert shared his poems including a poem ‘The Ultimate Clown’, a dedication in memory of Ken Dodd who sadly passed away last week. Tim shared a poem about Gardening. His set was sprinkled with humour and a pleasure to listen to. 

Sue Johnson told us more about her current project writing in cafes. Where there is cake, there is often poetry – or at least in my case, a poet with a mouthful of cake! She told us about collaborative work and shared her beautiful poems. A delight to listen to a set from Sue. 

Matt Black wowed the room and delivered an inspired Jabberwocky poem about Brexit, an amazing pastiche. His other poem Snowdon by Numbers was good too, it brought back memories for some people in the room. Matt is energy on the stage and in life I think! 

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Our Guest Poet Maggie Doyle delivered an enchanting 10 minute set, got a poetry ‘awwww’ and thoroughly entertained us all. I loved her poems ‘Nan’ & ‘Trevor’ and one she performed about Poets in schools – having been in school three times in the past week or so.

What I had not expected was the lovely thanks and praise from people throughout the evening and from behind the mic. Maggie took it a step further with a beautiful poem in praise of my Laureateship work, she knows only too well what goes into these projects having trodden this path herself. I was deeply touched and had to flap a manuscript in front of my face at this point. She opened her set with this poem. 

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Fergus McGonigal was on fire (not literally, you will be glad to hear)! An utterly, astonishingly brilliant set from our Headline Act and the perfect end to an evening of Poetry Love! Great performance. Fergus opened his set with Dogs Smarter than Cats, which generally divides a room until they become lost in the humour and forget the rivalry of pet ownership! I adored his Heroic Verse on wine tasting. Captivating as always and a downright astounding performance by a poet set to stun!

I am so happy that Fergus has a new book out and is back on the circuit. 

Everyone is Now Unhappy – Burning Eye Books

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To finish the evening everyone grabbed themselves a Poetry Take Away and went on their merry way filled with poetry, party, good vibes and happy memories. Creative spirits – captured!

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https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/wpd-from-the-mouths-of-others/


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WORLD POETRY DAY RELATED LINKS:

https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/books/world-poetry-day-2018-best-modern-poetry-books-a3795881.html

http://metro.co.uk/2018/03/21/6-best-love-poems-world-poetry-day-2018-7404663/

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/world-poetry-day-2018-video-stephen-hawking-video-poem-relativity-sarah-howe-edited-a8267101.html

http://poetrysociety.org.uk/news/happy-unesco-world-poetry-day/

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