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On Wednesday there was even more excitement in The Library as we hosted a visit from world-famous poet, Simon Armitage. We are not usually open on a Wednesday but the Keele Poets - who use one of our Meeting Rooms for their class every Thursday - had asked if they could change their class to Wednesday for one week.
Simon had agreed to do a poetry reading at Keele University in the evening - but as a special favour to Caroline (their tutor) he had also promised to do a session just for them in the afternoon in Silverdale. Caroline was instrumental in organising his latest adventure - walking the Pennine Way earlier in the year using his poetry to barter for the things he needed - like food and beer and socks :-)
I was delighted to open the library for them!
Caroline and I were there from 2.30pm moving furniture and sorting out crockery. Some of the other Keele poets arrived early too - with cake and cookies. There was some delicious, dark fruit cake, sugar-topped shortbread and chocolate chip cookies - all home-made. We boiled water and made tea and coffee as the other poets arrived, as well as some specially invited Keele MA students.
I only had to deflect one customer who thought we were open for business as usual and tried to get on a computer.
|Coffee and Cake in the Library|
Around ten to four Simon himself arrived. he said he wasn't sure where he was - but he was here! He tried some cake too before everyone went into the meeting Room. He was introduced by Caroline and sat at the front for the session. he said he didn't really want to talk for an hour - he'd rather have a discussion and we could ask whatever we wanted.
|Library Café :-)|
He had given us handouts as he wanted to talk about the poets that had influenced him and how his own style had developed.
He is actually a big fan of Tony Harrison from Leeds as he has been a pioneer of using ordinary, everyday language in poetry - including slang and swearing. Also he comes from near Simon, who hails from Marsden in Yorkshire.
He asked for volunteers to read the poems that he had brought along - although he did read his own himself - which is good as that is going to be the way they are meant to be read!
I loved Timer - by Tony Harrison, and Simon told us how he'd seen the man himself read this while he and the audience all sobbed.
He read his own At Sea and some from his own translation of Sir Gawayn and the Green Knight, from the Middle English. It is an intriguing story of the youngest of King Arthur's knights who took on a challenge from a mysterious green knight, then had to go in search of him. It is not known who wrote it originally but it is generally thought that the author may have been from maybe Staffordshire/Cheshire. They can tell by the dialect words and the places described.
|What do you call a room full of poets?|
Someone asked him if he wrote poetry everyday. He told us he didn't have time anymore so he has a roomful of elves who write it for him now. He just says yes or no to what they produce! Seriously though - he can go three or four months without writing a poem - but he does try to write something everyday - even if it is just a paragraph in his journal.
The hour actually flew by and pretty soon he had to be on his way to get ready for the reading at Keele at 7.30pm.
Nathan and I were lucky enough to have tickets for the evening event (Thanks Caroline!!) It was a bit of a rush - as I had to go home - then co0me back to the Library to open up for another meeting before handing over the the keys for them to lock up. Then we just had time for a bite to eat before driving up to Keele University.
We bought raffle tickets - in the hope of winning the Poet Laureate's sherry - but sadly we didn't win it :-( It took place in the Westminster Theatre in the Chancellor's Building. It was pretty big and really full. He is very popular!
He concentrated on his new book Walking Home - so he read some passages out of it and then made us laugh when he gave us a slideshow entitled "What I Did on my Holidays by Simon Armitage"
|Caroline and Simon at Silverdale|
|Poster for Keele Event|
|His new book|
It was a lovely evening and he dedicated his final poem to Caroline for all the help that she has given him. How nice is that?
Afterwards you could go and get your book signed by him.
If you fancy reading more of his poetry - we have lots in the Library! Come in and try it.
|He signed mine!|