Friday, 8 March 2013

Poet Laureate visits Colne Library

 Yesterday was World Book Day. This is largely used as an opportunity to promote children's reading by publishers, booksellers and library staff,  to encourage and inspire children to read. Yet it also stands as a useful hook to hang other reading and literary activities on.

Lancashire Libraries had 2 reasons for inviting Carol Ann Duffy to appear in one of their libraries. Last year saw the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch trials. The story of these poor women in a remote corner of Northern England has long captured the imagination of writers and artists. A local Arts organisation Green Close commissioned Carol Ann to write a poem about the witches which could appear along a footpath in the area of Pendle Hill.  Carol Ann wrote a long poem which appears on 30 waymarkers along the path and gave it a first public reading last night, accompanied by "her" regular  musician John Sampson.

I have previously written here about the Poetry Places promotion of poetry that we ran in NW libraries in  the autumn of 2012 and which  included Carol Ann's poem Bees . Our Poetry Places poems all needed to be placed in, or be inspired by, the North West region and it was essential that one of our poems should represent  our industrial heritage.  Bees are a well known symbol of industry and hard work  and appear in the coats of arms of several towns and cities, including  Manchester and Blackburn. How perfect then, that we could represent our important northern heritage  symbolically through a poem about bees written by the Poet Laureate who just happens to live in our region. The poem can be seen and read here.

An essential element of our project was that the poets represented should give readings in libraries, so we were delighted when Carol Ann said she could be available to appear on World Book Day, to read from a range of her work including the 2 poems from the 2 parallel  projects. Colne Library was packed out with an audience which seemed excited to be welcoming the poet laureate into their community and delighted in both Carol Ann's readings and the musical interludes from musician John Sampson. I hope that for many of them it will have been a World Book Day to remember and which inspired them to hear and read more poetry.

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