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Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Poetry series

21 May 09 words: James Walker
The Nottingham Poetry Series offers readings and workshops in tranquil settings

The Nottingham Poetry Series, a new collection of readings, craft talks, and workshops, held its inaugural reading on 7th May 2009, in the Angear Visitors Centre at the University of Nottingham. Supported by the Arts Graduate Centre and the Literature Network, the event was put on for free. Consequently, it benefitted from an excellent turnout, though I suspect that this had less to do with economics and more to do with the fact that the city is crying out for regular poetry events.

The event is the brainchild of Eireann Lorsung, a PhD Candidate at the University of Nottingham who explained ‘I wanted to set these events up because I come from a city (Minneapolis) where there is a very lively and active poetry presence, and I didn't find that here (because of my own foreignness/unfamiliarity to some extent, I'm sure!). I really missed the presence of poetry at the university, especially. I think it's useful to have practitioners of the arts in places where theory is being made about them. It opens up other ways of using our brains and makes all our work more creative.’

Although I share her vision, there is also another benefit to holding it at the university that goes beyond theory. The university is set in the most beautiful of surroundings and in addition to lakes and acres of grass has a theatre and art galleries, making the trip outside of the city all the more worthwhile. Indeed, I hope that future events could, weather permitting, be held out on the grass, or better still, following the poets around the lake. The fact that I was pondering all of these possibilities before the readings had even begun just goes to reaffirm how important ambience and context are in creating a positive reception for performance. Having said that, the three performing poets could have performed inside a dustbin and it would have been just as enjoyable. 

The poets performing were Michael Mckimm (*Still This Need*, Heaventree Press 2009) along with two local poets Pam Thompson and Will Smith. The latter two were selected based on submissions received for the series and represented members of the local community/university and acted as more than suitable bookends to the established McKimm. The combined readings were for 40 minutes in total, without the aid of a microphone, to an audience seated in an intimate semi-circle to the performers. Subjects covered included a defiant defence of hoodies, landscapes and geology. With the sun blasting in through the windows and home-made cakes that would put your nana to shame, there was a real magical feel to the evening.

There are many words which spring to mind to sum up this evening, ranging from balance to tranquillity, but I think the one that does it most justice is thoughtfulness. Thoughtful in the selection process, thoughtful in the setting, thoughtful in seeing a glaring gap in the Nottingham scene, even thoughtful down to the home-made cakes, but in particular, the thought that went into the opening introduction. Rather than kick-start the event with a poem from her own collection, ‘Music for Landing Planes By’, Eireann read the work of a poet she admired ('Lucky Life' by Gerald Stern). This uplifting verse set the tone for a relaxed evening which beckoned a mutual appreciation of poetry rather than the usual book plugging. If there is to be a formula for success then it is simple, selfless gestures such as this which make it memorable. I’ll certainly be back there on October 22nd when George Szirtes and two local poets read. I hope you will be too.  

In addition to the poetry events, Eireann is also hosting some poetry workshops which run for two weeks (12 hours in total). The deadline for applying for the next set of sessions is June 1st. For further information on application requirements, please visit here.

Eireann Lorsung’s website
James Walker’s website

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