For the past six years I have been lucky enough to witness many men and women of words performing their work in odd dusty bars, ramshackle pubs, empty theatres, and greasy spoons all around the UK.
I’ve seen an Aberdeen artist crying from bridges just to get heard, a loud-speaker clutching Pimlico poet walking the pavements reciting her words, and a saw-player (yes, a saw-player…) in my Yorkshire hometown.
It all sounds rather odd, and for some people poetry is ‘not-in-my-backyard’ kind of stuff. That’s fair enough. But there is still such a great amount of talent in this thirsty, emaciated, overworked and underpaid business which simply cannot get overlooked. And what has always troubled me is just how hungry these writers are for people: people just to watch, to listen, and sometimes to throw a few coins in the hat at the end of the night.
It shouldn’t be like that. The effort which your average local poet puts into their writing warrants more than the couple of minutes it takes to read it, and is certainly worthy of ten times as much stage-time. An open-mic evening might take a few hours, but to many writers it is a tremendous source of solace, of enjoyment, of training for the young and even socialising for the elderly. It constantly causes dismay for me to know that unlike, say, sport, there is a very limited and shaky public platform for the average poet to make themselves heard. There’s just no Poetry Olympics in this joint.
So this is what I’m trying to solve. I’ve been writing my own poetry for a few years and am now enjoying a small degree of public recognition, but that has only come with hard work and, most importantly, those same small-town bars, pubs, theatres, and people who have made the effort, every few weeks, to give me a stage.
So here we are. The Poets’ Nook here at The Yorker is a new, regular platform allowing poets and poetry groups around the UK to gain recognition and, I hope, fuel their future work. Here you’ll find reviews of writing groups, poetry nights, individual poets and upcoming events mainly from the Yorkshire area (though I do like to travel, so who knows…).
I hope that, with time, The Poets’ Nook will help to turn these small-town, under-appreciated artistic spheres, which are such vital local platforms for creativity, into sturdy community resources, with people through the doors and willing ears listening to work which is often, for many, their whole life’s work.
Because, really, poetry is alive and well. It deserves this, and so I shall see you anon.