Poetry Parnassus in Libraries

In partnership with The Reading Agency, we took Poetry Parnassus into six libraries across the country to present free community events with international poets visitng Birmingham, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Portsmouth and Worthing.

Wednesday 4 July: Birmingham Central Library

Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah appeared alongside Birmingham Poet Laureate Jan Watts:

“On 4th July 2012, we held our Birmingham Poetry Parnassus event at the Library  Theatre in Birmingham. Earlier in the year, I had heard Rafeef Ziadah share her  poetry at the University of Birmingham, so I was delighted that she was coming back  to Brum. This time for the Parnassus, she was representing her homeland of Palestine.

Rafeef’s commitment to tell the narrative of Palestine’s plight was central to her  electric performance. Many in the audience  learnt more about Palestine and the  reality of life for those who live there. However, Rafeef does not offer just a polemic,  the power of her words take over her physical being and we in the audience have an  emotional response too. It was a magical evening, a humbling experience for me to  share the stage with such a profound performance poet.”


Wednesday 4 July: Worthing Library

Cameroonian poet Paul Dekayo read with local poet Wendy Greene.

“When Wendy was asked to host the Poetry Parnassus event at Worthing Library alongside Paul Dakeyo from Cameroon, she wondered whether there would be a communication problem. Paul speaks French with a little schoolboy English and Wendy’s schoolgirl French had not received an airing for many years. True there was an interpreter, but that can make for very stilted conversation. Both Paul and Wendy were delighted to find that they understood each other well which led to a most enjoyable lunchtime chat. In the Library’s Lecture Theatre, the  audience were most appreciative, enjoying both languages for the musicality and rhythm of the works as well as meaning.”


Thursday 5 July: Cumbria Libraries

Raúl Heano and Bewketu Seyoum visited Kendal Library, hosted by local poet Andrew Forster:

“In July this year I was asked by Cumbria Library Service to host a ‘Poetry Parnassus on Tour’ event at Kendal Library, with Colombian poet Raul Henao and Ethiopian poet Bewketu Seyoum, along with his translator Chris Beckett. I was also asked to  read a few poems of my own. The event was organised fairly late in the day, and in the middle of a busy period in the   literary calendar, and it can be difficult for us to raise audiences for translated poetry, but Poetry Parnassus was a unique event and it was fabulous to be able to bring a small part of it to Cumbria.

It was Bewketu’s first trip outside Ethiopia. He was a fantastic performer, his poems rhythmic and almost aphoristic, and delivered with passion, from memory as he strode across the front of the room. Chris Beckett read his English translations and gave the context to a number of the poems.

Raul Henao has a reputation as a surrealist. His poems were both imaginative and very funny in places, but they all seemed very rooted in the real world. His reading was a contrast to Bewketu’s. He remained seated but read with quiet assurance, in Spanish, while I read the English translations.

The audience, interestingly, was not our regular poetry audience but largely people with an interest in and knowledge of our guest poets’ countries, and this lead to a lively question and answer session after the readings.

The audience stayed around to talk to the poets for quite some time afterwards, and the general feeling was that it was a humbling, magical evening.”


Friday 6 July: Portsmouth Library

Ribka Sibhatu from Eritrea visited Portsmouth with her translator Andre Naffis. They appeared at the city’s Menuhin Theatre performing with Portsmouth’s own laureate Sam Cox and the Young Poet Laureate Joe McQuilken. Sam said of the evening:

“I was honoured to be a part of the Poetry Parnassus Tour and it was a fabulous opportunity to celebrate the world of poetry with so many other poets who featured alongside us in the programme. I was delighted to perform with Ribka Sibhatu that evening and to also share the stage with the Young Poet Laureate  for Portsmouth for 2012 – Joe McQuilken. The evening was not only a chance to  share our poetry and the percussion that often accompanies my performances, it was also an evening to make new friendships and to learn more about one  another. It provided an exciting adrenaline rush as we took questions from the  floor afterwards – sharing the inspirations, settings and context of our poetry and  was a chance to let our poems speak off the page as we interacted with our audiences in new ways. I was moved to learn about the connections between our poetry and how the themes of people, tradition, heritage, identity and landscape inspire our work in many different ways that we can all be enriched to be a part of.”


Thursday 12 July: Derbyshire Libraries

TJ Dema, Botswana’s Parnassus representative, read at Wirksworth Eco Centre with former Derbyshire Poet Laureate River Wolton, who said of the event:

“It was a joy to read alongside TJ Dema at the event hosted by Derbyshire Libraries. There was a palpable sense of the Cultural Olympiad reaching out into rural England, and of poetry opening the communication channels between Botswana and this corner of the East Midlands. When we met before the event TJ  and I talked nineteen-to-the-dozen about writing, performing, publishing, and the meeting points in our preoccupations, particularly the role of ‘political’ poetry. At the Eco Centre a fifty-strong audience who had travelled from across the county, as well as Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham, were rapt by TJ’s phenomenal delivery and mesmerising style. In a compelling Q&A she spoke about her influences, post-colonial poetry, the issues of writing in English or Setswana and of living in a country where poets draw crowds of thousands but where there are only a few publishers. Audience feedback confirmed that they had been electrified by the atmosphere and by the power of the spoken word to bridge continents: TJ was incredible. The performances of both poets were superb. It’s great to hear poetry rather than read it. Tough issues dealt with imaginatively. The ideas came to life.

Thursday 12 July: Nottingham Central Library

Somali poet Abdullahi Botan Hassan went to Nottingham Central Library with Emma Brinkhurst, a PhD student who studied the poetic mediation in the Somali community of London’s King’s Cross and focused on Abdullahi in particular.

They talked to an audience largely made up of one of the libraries English language groups, run to help the cities immigrant population.

Audience feedback Wordle