Wordsworth Trust opens new chapter of poetry readings

First published in Literature The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Arts correspondent

WORD power is back on the Lakeland's cultural map as the Wordsworth Trust gears up for a thrilling mixture of internationally renowned names, newer voices and talented local writers.

With a reputation second to none for contemporary poetry, the Grasmere-based trust’s new season of acclaimed poetry readings includes Ian McMillan, the ‘Bard of Barnsley’, on July 5. Also famous as the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s The Verb, Ian regularly performs to packed houses with his blend of poetry and cabaret. This year he will be reading with his son and acclaimed younger poet, Andrew.

No trust poetry season would be quite the same without the Simon Armitage. This time around his reading will include poems from a forthcoming collection The Unaccompanied.

An Irish flavour is added to the mix when global poetry stars Michael Longley (August 30) and Paul Muldoon (September 27) read. Muldoon’s playfulness with language has influenced countless poets, and Longley’s beautiful lyrics, particularly his poetry set in County Mayo where he spends much of his time, demand to be heard in the soft tones of their author.

Other Irish poets reading this year are Bernard O’Donoghue, Dennis O’Driscoll, Julie O’Callaghan and Tony Curtis.

There is also an opportunity to hear the work of local writers with national reputations. Jane Routh, who manages woodlands, near Bentham, will be reading from her third collection of poetry The Gift of Boats, alongside Michael Longley, and Lancaster-based Elizabeth Burns will read from a new collection Held.

Season first-timers include South African-born Carola Luther and Christopher Reid, who won the Costa Award for his series of elegies for his wife, A Scattering, and whose long poem The Song of Lunch was turned into a BBC film.

Trust literature officer Andrew Forster said that lots of people thought poetry was not for them but a poetry reading was just another kind of live performance. He added: “It’s a very powerful thing, and audiences go through a range of emotions. People can be moved to tears at one point and suddenly find themselves laughing out loud.”

Readings are on alternate Tuesdays at 6.45pm at The Wordsworth Hotel, Grasmere.

The next one is on Tuesday, May 24, and features Ian Duhig and Katharine Towers. Ian’s work is notable for its combination of arcane knowledge, humour and political commitment. Katharine Towers, a poet whose debut collection The Floating Man was shortlisted for numerous awards. Katharine’s work is influenced by the structures of music and is beautifully delicate.

This year the readings are part of a much bigger programme, and many of the poets will be taking part in additional events for the trust. For example, Fiona Sampson, editor of Poetry Review, will be talking about Shelley the following morning, to tie in with a new exhibition, and Dennis O’Driscoll will give a talk about working with Seamus Heaney.

To help new audiences find a way into poetry, the Wordsworth Trust is posting a series of ‘Reading Guides’ on its website, introducing the work of each of the poets in the series. There’s also a monthly reading group, where those interested can read and discuss the work of some of the featured poets before hearing the poets themselves.

Tickets on 015394-35544.

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