Poetry in the Park anthology launched today

Many thanks to all of those who attended our launch today. Extra thanks to Nick from Hare Hill House for making us so welcome and set up to room for us, and I especially admire the upside down Christmas Tree.

With tea and coffee and a table of home made cakes, proving that some of our poets are also excellent bakers, the 40 strong audience settled down to listen to an introduction from Elizabeth White, Chair of Create and Connect who organised the project. Elizabeth spoke about the motivation and aims of our project, the reasons for producing a large print poetry book and thanked our sponsors “Crook Hill Community Benefit Fund”.

Photo of all participating poets and Janet Elmsley with their copies of the book
The poets and Cllr Janet Elmsley with copies of the anthology

Eileen Earnshaw, a superb local poet, and I shared a couple of poems each to give some idea of the range of styles and subjects that we write about and then each of the other poets who took part in the project read some of their work from the newly published book.

The participating poets are; Denise Greenall, Eileen Earnshaw, Elizabeth White, Graham Haynes, Julie Woodrup, Marilyn Allred, Nic Holliday, Ray Stearn, Sandra Buckley, Susan Benton and myself.

Cllr. Janet Emsley, Deputy Leader of Rochdale Council, always a staunch supporter of the arts and her local community in Littleborough, read a poem on behalf of Elizabeth White and also expressed thanks to the sponsors and her hopes that we will continue to see such community based creative projects in the future.

Photo of Janet Emsley, Seamus Kelly and Elizabeth White with copies of “Poetry in the Park”
Cllr Janet Emsley, Seamus Kelly (poet and facilitator), Elizabeth White (Create and Connect)

The book, and the readings, were very well received and copies will be distributed free of charge to people experiencing sight loss, Rotary will include them in Christmas parcels and they will be distributed to care homes etc. and through MeetUp at Hare Hill House.

Next week we will be releasing copies online, freely downloadable, including a version using colours and a specialist font to make it more readable for people with dyslexia.

Elizabeth White said “the launch was really successful, the poets read from their work to a very appreciative audience. Being able to offer a large print poetry book is amazing as there are very few published in this format.”

A photo of some of the audience members listening to the poets
Some of the audience listening to poems at today’s launch

A great event and project, I have been very impressed by all of the writers and thoroughly enjoyed running the workshops and editing the anthology.

Poetry in the Park Launches – Tomorrow 2nd Dec

Hare Hill House, Littleborough

11:00am to 12:00noon, Friday 2nd December

A photo of the open box with a copy of the anthology at the top

A quick glance inside one of the boxes of books ready for tomorrow’s launch.

It is always exciting opening that box and holding a copy of a brand new book in your hand. This one is a special one being produced as it is a large print anthology helping to make poetry accessible to older people and those with some visual impairment.

The work has been inspired by the workshops that the writers attended at Hare Hill House in Littleborough. I’m really looking forward to the participating poets receiving their copies, seeing their words in print and sharing some of their poems at the launch.

if you can get along to the launch you’ll be very welcome and you will be able to collect a free copy of Poetry in the Park and enjoy light refreshment and drinks.

The Forward Prizes for Poetry, Contact Theatre, Manchester

28th November 2022

Photo of the 5 shortlisted poets for the prize for best collection
Shortlisted poets for the Best Collection Prize

The Forward Arts Foundation is a charity that seeks to increase the audience for poetry, to increase the public knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of poetry in the UK and Ireland. The foundation promotes the annual National Poetry Day on the first Thursday of October, the Forward Prizes for Poetry and the Forward Book of Poetry, an annual anthology of the year’s best poems.

This year for the first time the Forward Prizes for Poetry, celebrating their 30th year were presented outside London, at the Contact Theatre in Manchester, which is celebrating its own 50th anniversary. The Prizes have become one of the most prestigious literature prizes in the UK and Forward announced at the event, that next year there will be an additional prize for the Best Single Poem Performed for the 2023 event.

The audience at the sold-out show enjoyed a wide range of excellent poetry from the five shortlisted poets in each of three categories. We were also treated to an excellent short film about the vibrant poetry scene in Manchester, the city that has become a major centre for poetry in recent years and can rival any city worldwide for the quality and quantity of new poetry being created. For those unable to attend the event it was also live streamed to an audience around the world.

After introductions from Keisha Thompson (CEO of Contact) and William Seighart (founder of the Forward Prizes) the presentation itself began.

Photo of Nick Laird receiving the prize for best single poem
Nick Laird receiving this prize for Dest Single Poem

The prize for Best Single Poem was awarded to Nick Laird (Professor of Poetry at Queens University in Belfast) for his powerful and moving poem “Up Late”, a kind of elegy for his father who he lost to Covid-19 in March 2021. The poem was long and multi-sectional but engaged the audience completely.

Photo of Stephanie si-Quia receiving her prize for best first collection
Stephanie si-Quia receiving her prize for best first collection

The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection was awarded to Stephanie Sy-Quia, for her book Amnion published by Granta Poetry. Amnion is a single book length poem and Sy-Quia read a section that spoke of her time at a boarding school in Canterbury. The poem explores questions around immigration and multiple origins. I was particularly moved by the lines; “The blonde others aspired to be described with mean, hard-nosed little words: thin, pretty, nice. I wanted big-femur words like wise and kind”.

Photo of Kim Moore receiving her prize for best collection
Kim Moore receiving her prize for best collection

The Forward Prize for Best Collection went to Kim Moore for her collection titled “All the Men I Never Married” published by Seren Books. Moore read poem number 7 from her book and then when presented with the Prize also read poem number 12. Her book and the poems that make it up were prompted by the research for her PHD thesis on “Poetry and Everyday Sexism” which reinforced her belief that poetry can be transformative. She wanted to write poems that could shift people’s thinking about sexism and gender-based microaggressions but had not expected it to shift her own as well. This might sound like it would appeal only to women – both are far from the truth and the whole audience thoroughly enjoyed her poems as well as, perhaps, being challenged by them.

If/when the prizes return to Manchester in 2023 I’d highly recommend the event to anyone, writer, reader of listener with an interest in poetry. The shortlisted poems, including the winners can be found on www.forwardartsfoundation.org or in the Forward Book of Poetry 2023 available from major booksellers.

The Forward Arts Foundation are supported by the BBC, Royal Mail, leading publishers and book sellers and by Arts Council England.