Simon Armitage at Southwell Poetry Festival 3rd July 2011

Southwell Poetry Festival is in full swing this week, with fantastic visiting poets and plenty of local writers included in the line-up. On Sunday evening, Southwell Minster hosted a reading by Simon Armitage, which was exciting for me as it was his poem ‘Before You Cut Loose’ which really started my interest in poetry and my favourite poem is ‘It’s Not What You Do, It’s What It Does To You’ (along with ‘Owl’s Song’ by Ted Hughes).

The event was kicked off  by a blessing from the bishop, followed by a speech from a local councillor and then a librarian, Ralph, who introduced Simon Armitage. It was like a Russian Doll of introductions. Simon read from his translation of the medieval text, Gawain and The Green Knight, which fitted well with the surroundings; Southwell Minster would have been 200 years old when the text was first written. He also read from his latest collection, Seeing Stars. Readings were interspersed with amusing anecdotes, giving context to the poems; he had the audience laughing out-loud on several occasions. Towards the end of the readings he paused to invite some questions from the audience, which included a question from a girl who was studying his poetry for her GCSE’s and a request for a reading of his poem about Bob Dillon, (which was refused, but quite charmingly.) I’ve never heard anyone request a poem at a reading before! That is true literary stardom, I guess.

Then it was book signings (with Simon Armitage good-naturedly posing with a copy of LeftLion magazine for a photo) and off to the Saracen’s Head pub to sink a couple of pints of good ale. A perfect evening!

Praise should be directed to the Nottinghamshire Libraries team and in particular Sheelagh Gallagher, for booking some really great poets to read at Southwell Poetry Festival. There’s plenty to look forward to in the week, including readings by Andy Croft and Tom Warner on Tuesday 5th July 6.30pm and a Poetry Pub Crawl on Wednesday 6 July 7.30pm with MulletProofPoet. On Saturday, the event finale includes readings from Chrissie Gittins and Sarah Jackson 6.45pm – 7.45pm and Open Mic hosted by Wayne Burrows, Editor of Staple Magazine, all at (or starting at) Southwell Library. No car? Use the No 100 Bus from outside Boots (Victoria Centre) every 30 mins.

Check out the programme: