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From the archives 6: Poetry at Suffolk Book League

Following on from the talk by Frances Gibb on George Crabbe I had a look through the archives to see what connections Suffolk Book League has made with poetry over the years. It would seem that early on there were a number of speakers on the subject, particularly in 1984 when talks included our former president, Norman Scarfe, and another when Peter Pears read some of his favourite poetry in April of that year (that must have been one meeting not to be missed).

Talks by poets and about poets seem to have been irregular in the 1990s and early 2000s, although in June 1992 John Wain, himself a poet and a member of the literary group known as ‘The Movement’ spoke about Philip Larkin, who was a fellow member.

Various forays into the topic after this culminated in 2017 when no less than two poets came to speak and read from their work: Hollie McNish in February and Wendy Cope in November. As a young and popular performance poet, Hollie drew a different and vibrant audience, I recall them sitting on the floor at the front. Jacquie Knott, writing in BookTalk (1) comments that Hollie ‘has always used verse to keep her diaries’ and that she ‘read from her book about motherhood Nobody Told Me, which won the 2017 Ted Hughes Award (1). In November 2017 Wendy Cope read from a new book: Christmas Poems. In a review in BookTalk Spring 2018 (2) Keith Jones explained that the secret of her poetry lies in ‘the wit’. The review notes that Wendy admires poets such as A. E. Houseman and Philip Larkin, but her poetry has a slightly different inspiration – ordinary life – ‘she likes to make the most of every day’(2). Surely this is a good maxim for us all.

Janet Bayliss

  1. Knott, J. Hollie McNish, BookTalk, 2017, Summer, (168): 4.

  2. Jones, K. Wendy Cope, BookTalk, 2018, Spring, (169): 7.


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