Poetry in a theatre, a library and a pub! That was my varied experience of Nottingham Poetry Festival last week. It started at the Theatre Royal’s Third Stage, with Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate no less, accompanied by musician John Sampson. At a sold-out show, we were treated to works such as The Christmas Truce, a moving poem in remembrance of soldiers in the trenches of World War 1, with haunting music from John Sampson, which made the spine tingle. Poems from The World’s Wife, which I was looking forward to, did not disappoint; clever and witty, and the suggestion from the poet that Mrs Faust might have a parallel in a certain president’s third wife, gave a wry topicality. The final poem, The Premonition, written about the death of her mother, in which the poet travels backwards through time, was both moving and perfectly executed.
After a brief venture into fiction on Tuesday (an entertaining talk by thriller writer Stephen Booth at West Bridgford Library), I returned to poetry at Hyson Green Library. I was a bit late as I, and several others, were not aware that Hyson Green has a lovely new library, so turned up at the former building! The library was packed out, with standing room only, for the Poetry Hour with Henry Normal, who was entertaining as ever, with poems that sometimes also have a hidden emotional punch. With Henry was poet Leanne Moden, whose poem No Such Thing as a Bacon Roll celebrates Nottingham, her adopted city. Her delivery was lively and engaging. You can see her (and others) reading this poem on the Nottingham City of Literature website at http://nottinghamcityofliterature.com/blog/no-such-thing-as-a-bacon-roll, well worth a watch. The sticky Asian sweets passed round the whole audience (amazingly there were enough to go round!) was a bonus and helped create a warm atmosphere.
Finally, the last show of the festival arrived in my home patch of West Bridgford, at the Poppy and Pint pub. Again sold out, there was a lively atmosphere, helped along by the availability of the bar – though I was disappointed to find they had sold out of the Henry Normal beer created for the festival! Andrew “Mulletproof” Graves was first on, a local poet, whose poems, many inspired by his time spent as a Youth Worker, “champion the underdogs and underclass” (to quote his website). Radford Road was an evocation of the exotic within the ordinary in our own town.
John Hegley followed on, and there were many memorable moments, including the whole audience flapping along with all the movements to I am a Guillemot, an audience member translating a Monsieur Robinet poem, and an extended version of I Need You, while the sound system got a sort out (which became a running joke). I have to mention at this point my partner, who is not a natural poetry fan, and was traumatised a few years ago when I took him to a poetry event full of people who thought they were the bee’s knees, along with a lot of pretentious poetry in-jokes about metaphors! Anyway, I dragged him along to the Poppy, in the hope of changing his mind – and what a success that was. An entertaining evening of enjoyable, thought provoking and definitely unpretentious poetry! Thank you, Nottingham Poetry Festival.