University Poetry Challenge

I couldn’t resist using this title, but what we had the evening of February 4 was not a competition between the University of Greenwich and Goldsmiths. It was an opportunity for us to appreciate the students’ skills with words and for the students to read in front of an audience – something which some had not experienced before. All showed great courage, writing confidence (and many were confident readers, too), a touching solidarity with each other and a wide range of interests and focus, from the very intimate and personal to the fate of whales (which felt equally intimate and personal…). The students had been asked by Cherry Smyth and Blake Morrison to submit a few short poems each, and poet extraordinaire Sascha Akhtar had kindly agreed to select three winner for each university. And to perform some of her poetry at the beginning, while Cherry and Blake did so at the end, after a lively students’ open mic session.

The prizes (book tokens) were presented by Sascha, who commented on the chosen poems. With infinite thanks to PnSEL (Poetry network South East London), who channelled a donation from an anonymous donor to in-words to make it all possible. A memorable evening with a large and very appreciative audience.

Some (rather poor) images of Sascha and some of the winners below. More to follow.

Events

‘Proper’ summer is finally here and, while I’m reluctant to start thinking about autumn, I am inevitably and joyfully beginning to plan the first event of the ‘new term’. The first thing I did was to look back at all the in-words events from the very first one in January 2017, and I realised that over five years I hosted 49 readings, including a number of lectures by Graham Fawcett. 49! What shall I do for the 50th? I’m thinking that, although it would limit the numbers in the audience, I would really love to have an in-person event at the West Greenwich Library, like ‘in the old days’. And you never know, I may even be able to get to grips with ‘hybrid’…. Of course, it will depend of many factors, and as soon as I can, I shall post a date if not a full programme.

I love the new animation at the top of my homepage. Thanks to Paul Kley for creating it. The words on the flying page are not a quotation but a whole poem, a favourite of mine, by the Italian hermetic poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. It is impossible to translate, though countless attempts have been made. I am sure you can guess its meaning and I leave you to create your own ‘translation’ of it. Ungaretti fought in the trenches and those two lines represent a moment one morning – pared down to a sense of the absolute, maybe also of possibilities?

As we emerge from a not-yet-over pandemic and wake up every morning feeling the dread of conflict but also aware of the beauty of spring and the blessing of nature and community, Ungaretti’s words are more than ever appropriate.

I am taking a break from organising things over the summer. Whether I will be as dynamic as the train above, or I’ll take time on a siding, I’m not yet sure.

Either way, I am always happy to hear from you with thoughts and ideas, and wish to thank you for your support so far.

Be well!