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Celebrating poetry in Surrey

March 19, 2015
Attribution: Swansea by Andrew Green / Flickr (NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

Swansea by Andrew Green / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

‘Poetry in Surrey Libraries‘ is the newest blog from Surrey Libraries’ in the UK. As this month’s theme is #poetryread we thought it would be an ideal time to share our thoughts about it.

It went live in August 2014 to promote the annual National Poetry Day in October.  We invited our creative library users to write a poem on the theme of ‘remember’…and they certainly didn’t disappoint.  We received 19 brand new self-written poems to post on the blog as well as some suggestions of classic poems that held a special place in their hearts.  It was a great way to launch the blog.

After the success of National Poetry Day, we wanted to explore how we could make the blog a place to enjoy poetry all year round.  So far we have had a poetry advent calendar; poems to celebrate LGBT History Month and most recently an invite for our library users to write a poem expressing how much they love their library for National Libraries Day.  The ‘Love My Library‘ promotion produced 45 self-written poems from a wide range of ages in the community. Our youngest poet is 5 years old and our most mature is 88.

So far the blog has had 5,500 views, 90 followers and 70 new poems submitted online or by a handout available in our libraries.

The blog is devoted to #poetryread in March including epic poems, limericks and song lyrics. For #rwpchat on 31st March we have a range of poetry ready to explore including World War One, Dr Seuss, poetry by Surrey poets past and present and will include some about our favourite subject in the UK…the weather and seasons!

Signs of spring are bringing forward memories of Wordsworth and daffodils or Shakespeare and cuckoo-buds of yellow hue. How is the weather around the world?  Why not write a poem and send it to us…we may just add it to our blog.

We look forward to hearing from you and to #poetryread on 31st March.

Gary Shield and Sue Applegate, Surrey Libraries.

A happy and poetic St Patrick’s Day to you all

March 17, 2015
A Happy and Poetic St Patrick’s Day to you all.   For #poetryread, I have chosen four poets and two musicians. There are poems that are songs and songs that are poems!  It is just a little dip into the ocean of Irish poetry, but I hope you enjoy.

2015 is a big year for poetry in Ireland – 150 years since WB Yeats’ birth in Dublin, 1865 and a year-long program #yeats2015 is planned.  Yeats’ poetry is best read aloud.  #YourYeats invites you to add your recording of a Yeats poem to soundcloud with the aim of creating the largest online archive of his poetry.  You can explore some of the contributions and add your own here.

Sausages are also part of the celebration.   After the message came from The Irish Times late one night in 1923 to confirm he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and after the interviews were over, he and his wife searched the cellar for a bottle of wine but finding it bare they cooked sausages to mark the occasion instead!   This silent slice of history shows Yeats arriving in Stockholm to receive the honour.

Yeats was a major literary figure, influencing many other artists.  Mr Mike Scott of the Waterboys is one of them.  Watch as Mike remembers a trip to Sligo as a boy and tells how several of the poems seemed to be “crying out for a tune.”

In 2011 The Waterboys released a whole album of Yeats set to music –  An Appointment with Mr Yeats.  But my favourite is an adaptation of The Stolen Child for Fisherman’s Blues in 1988.   The track was recorded on the west coast of Ireland and features local Gaelic singer Tomas Mac Eoin as the narrator.  Scott described his voice as “a sound hewn from rock yet full of a warm broken humanity.”   In 2014, The Guardian included Mac Eoin in their list of “little-known musicians behind some of music’s most famous moments”.  Scroll down to number eight and you will also get a little taste of the song.

Incidentally, Fisherman’s Blues includes a cover version of the Van Morrison (born Belfast, 1945) song Sweet Thing which has some of my favourite words. Last year a book of selected Van Morrison lyrics Lit Up Inside was published. More from Van later.

Recently, national broadcaster RTE ran a campaign to choose A Poem for Ireland.  A shortlist of ten poems from the last 100 years (including Easter 1916 by Yeats) was selected and this month the best-loved poem announced.  I was pleased that Seamus Heaney (born Co Derry, Northern Ireland, 1939, died 2013) was selected for the sonnet When all the others were away at MassIt is a beautiful poem and was my choice, too.

The last two poems I have chosen have the theme of home, leaving and returning.   Eavan Boland (born Dublin, 1944) was also on the RTE short-list for her poem Quarantine.  Listen to her poem The Emigrant Irish read by Irish actor Fionnula Flanagan.

I love the last lines:   And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.

I think of my father and mother with four small children setting off for Australia.  Their bravery, and of all who cross the world for a new life, will always astound me.

The Emigrant Irish has been quoted in the US Congress and the Irish Parliament.  Mary Robinson, President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, left a light in the kitchen window of her official residence as a symbol of remembrance of the Irish all over the world.

Our last poet is Sinead Morrissey (born 1972, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland), Belfast’s first Poet Laureate.  Here she talks about the literary significance of Queen’s University where she teaches.  She reads her poem In Belfast, a meditation on a living, breathing city –  her home.

So, stay a while and listen to a song about belonging, Van Morrison’s Irish Heartbeat.  This new recording features Mark Knopfler and is from a forthcoming album, Duets, Re-working the Catalogue.

A Happy St Patrick’s Day to you and yours!

Kathleen Alexander

Today is World Read Aloud Day

March 4, 2015
World Read Aloud Day 4 MArch 2015

World Read Aloud Day 4 March 2015

How are you going to celebrate world read aloud day?

Who will you read to?

Where will you read aloud?

What will you be reading?

Will anyone #readaloud on a train, on a bus or plane?

Will you #readaloud in a park, or on a beach, in the bush or forest, in a valley or up a mountain?

Maybe you can #readaloud #poetryread.

Find out more about World Read Aloud Day

March is #poetryread month for #rwpchat

March 1, 2015



Poetry is the expression of intense emotion – pain, love, longing, joy. Poetry can be visual, natural or man-made, as well as literary – spouted by beret-wearing, disaffected youth. Whatever emotion you want to explore, there is some poetry to help you plumb the depths, reach the heights and fill the breadth of emotional experience.

Revisit the classics, Shakespeare’s sonnets (swoon), Scotland’s favourite son, Robbie Burns or the poetry of the Great War with Owen and Sassoon. Or relive your childhood through the rhymes (sometimes revolting) of Roald Dahl, Pam Ayres, Dr Seuss and All Right Vegemite.

Songs are poetry to music so consider a concert or your playlists on iTunes as #poetryread, and watching fits the theme, too, with the poetry of landscape paintings and photography.

Poetry can be beautifully esoteric, but need not be; limericks are easily understood! It need not be bite sized, either, with novels in verse, such as those by Dorothy Porter or Stephen Herrick and many novelists use hauntingly poetic language. You can find many poems within novels, too, in Tolkien and Possession.

You can make your own poetry with the spines of books from your bookshelf, with Lego or the old favourite, fridge magnets.

However you do poetry, join in the discussion this month.

There will be a #poetryread twitter discussion on 31 March starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Daylight Savings (Summer) Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 9am – 11am; 2pm – 4pm; 6pm – 8pm BST. Note this is a staggered discussion.  Use the tags #poetryread and #rwpchat as you discuss #poetryread reading, watching playing so others can join in the conversation.


catch up on the #shortread discussion for #rwpchat

February 26, 2015

If you missed the #shortread discussion on Tuesday, you can read about it on Storify.

Next month we discuss #poetryread.

Join us today for the #shortread discussion for #rwpchat

February 24, 2015


Short , S.29, Stirling

Short airplane

There will be a #shortread twitter discussion today 24 February starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Daylight Savings (Summer) Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 9am – 11am; 2pm – 4pm; 6pm – 8pm BST. Note this is a staggered discussion.  Use the tags #shortread and #rwpchat as you discuss #shortread reading, watching playing so others can join in the conversation.

We have social media sites where people can talk about themselves and their interests and microblogging sites for the same but shorter – which beings up the subject of Twitter: While thinking about ‘short’, tweet your short thoughts using #shortread #rwpchat; add to the discussion on Pinterest too; post your photographs to Instagram or Flickr using #shortread #rwpchat.



Harry Potter Book Night

February 5, 2015


For many of us, every night is book night, and many, many book nights have involved Harry Potter. Now, for the first time, there is an official Harry Potter Book Night…… and it is tonight, the 5th of February! Tonight, Harry Potter fans from around the world can share their love, and introduce a new generation of readers to the magic of the Potterverse.

You can register at Bloomsbury for an event kit, you can devise your own magical celebrations, or you can simply settle in with your favourite Harry Potter book. If you do join in, share your celebrations using the hashtag #HarryPotterBookNight. The first three books definitely qualify as #shortread contenders, and there are short people in all the books, so pick your favourite and you’ll fit in with the Read Watch Play theme for February.

Don’t forget to join in the #shortread Twitter conversation on the 24th of February, using the hashtag #rwpchat.

There’s always time for another short read, here’s a quote from Harry Potter: “It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” –Albus Dumbledore [Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets].


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