Read Poets' Society; Today Is National Poetry Day, the North East Should Be Saying Hurrah. We Take a Look at Why the Northern Poetry Library Makes the Region a Beacon of Verse

The Journal (Newcastle, England), October 8, 2015 | Go to article overview

Read Poets' Society; Today Is National Poetry Day, the North East Should Be Saying Hurrah. We Take a Look at Why the Northern Poetry Library Makes the Region a Beacon of Verse


TODAY sees a national celebration of the importance of poetry. Britain has produced some of the world's most celebrated poets, from Basil Bunting to Kate Fox, and the culture of the North East inspired some fantastic verse.

The region holds the largest collection of contemporary poetry outside of London in the Northern Poetry Library, hosted within Morpeth Library in Northumberland.

The Northern Poetry Library contains the work of all the major poets writing in English since the end of the Second World War in over 15,000 volumes, including first editions, signed copies and runs of poetry periodicals.

And now its work is set to be unveiled across the region as a project launches tonight at Morpeth Library, from 7pm to 9pm, dedicated to getting ordinary people engaged in poetry.

Val Tyler, Northumberland County Council portfolio holder for culture, said: "This is a really exciting project. We have such a fantastic resource right here in the North East and this gives us the chance to literally 'spread the word' and get people as enthused as we are.

"The project includes setting up poets in residence across the region to work with the communities, commissions, events and a new digital platform.

"The launch will include readings from our poets as well as the launch of the new website. It will be a great way to celebrate the beginning of this fantastic project."

As part of Northumberland's public library service, The Northern Poetry Library books can be borrowed and reserved for free as part of the library's normal stock. Anyone can join Northumberland Libraries and borrow the books, or go along to browse the collection.

Established by the North Northumberland Arts Group in the 1960s together with Northern Arts, the regional precursor to the Arts Council, the aim was to create a collection to rival that of the collection at London's South Bank.

As you would expect, it has works by poets who have lived and worked in the North East including Tony Harrison, Basil Bunting, Barry Mac-Sweeney and a very good representation of local small presses like Arrowhead Press in Darlington, Smokestack in Ripon and Mudfog in Middlesbrough.

Lisa Matthews, lead poet for the project, has been based at the Northern Poetry Library researching the collection. She will work alongside fellow poets John Challis, Linda France, Carolyn Jess-Cooke, Jo Col-Turn to Page 20 From Page 19 ley and Degna Stone, who are based at Blyth, Hexham, Alnwick, Ashington and Berwick libraries.

The poets will create their own work inspired by the poetry collection, including digital responses for the new platform, and develop a programme so that community groups can write their own poetry and produce text-based artwork.

Lisa, a poet and writer from Whitley Bay, will also work with performance company November Club to develop a series of 'spotlight' commissions, inspired by key poems or themes.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke, poet in residence at Alnwick, said: "The Northern Poetry Library is one of the most important cultural resources in the UK, and particularly the North East.

"It has had an immense impact on my own creative practice and I would imagine should continue to play a significant role in the cultural impact of North East England.

"Poetry is one of the most essential cultural instruments to help people understand how to live. I'll default to Jane Hirshfield, who puts it better than me when she says 'poetry's work is the clarification and magnifi-cation of being'. …

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