Staffordshire is one of the most poetry friendly counties in the UK and their library service has put poetry at the heart of its offer to users.
Following an inspiring talk at the London Book Fair, we asked Catherine Mann, Libraries and Arts Manager, to put together a tip sheet.
Here it is:
1. Target membership at around 8-10 people ideally.
2. Decide how often to meet. Once a month generally works for us.
3. Allocate plenty of time to the sessions at the beginning as they invariably last longer than you think. We suggest 1.5 hrs including a break for refreshments.
4. Identify a couple of group members who would be happy to kickstart the meetings.
5. Take it in turns to choose a theme for each month’s session in advance. It could be as simple as choosing a spring themed poem to bring to the session. (You could also work with your local library to choose themes. Libraries use the Universal Offers to highlight events they want to support. Poems written for or shared at meetings could then be displayed in the library).
6. Encourage some of the group to read their chosen poems and welcome feedback from the other group members.
7. Not everyone will want to read aloud but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t enjoying being part of the group.
8. Remember that not everyone will enjoy your choice of poem on occasions, but this sometimes results in the best conversations.
9. Encourage the group to read poetry reviews, look out for poetry prize winners and to tune in to Poetry Please and other radio programmes to gain inspiration.
10. Look at opportunities to get guest poet speakers/readers to the sessions. You’ll be surprised at how many poets exist in your communities. Your local area may have their own County Poet Laureate.
11. Your library would love to promote your poetry group so talk to them at the end of each session and they’ll help you showcase some of your selected poems in the library itself or using their social media pages.