Archives for posts with tag: Maya Angelou

Today is the 22nd National Poetry Day and I marked it by running a poetry appreciation in a North Tyneside park.


Northumberland Park, nestled between North Shields and Tynemouth, is a glorious mix of Victorian elegance and 21st century urban open space. I love it and jumped at the chance of running a two hour poetry appreciation session in the room next to the cafe.

Five of the eleven attendees were Poetry with Friends regulars and the two hour session followed the same format as our popular PWF get togethers on Tuesday evenings and Thursday mornings.

This year’s theme for National Poetry Day is “messages” and we kept that in mind as we shared our own poems as well as work by Rudyard Kipling, Mary Oliver, Martin Figuera, Carol Ann Duffy, Walter de la Mare, Maya Angelou and more.


Poetry with Friends stalwart, Ken asked what message could we get out of the session. We were undecided but I think it’s fair to say we covered life, the universe and almost everything in our time together. We laughed a great deal too. And enjoyed the October sun in our break.

Thanks to Northumberland Park’s ranger and attendees for making today so enjoyable.





Throats are described as being “bricky-dry” in Rudyard Kipling’s poem Gunga Din, one of the many poems shared at last Thursday’s Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library. My throat was bricky-dry at the end of a session that overran because we had so much to say about our chosen topic, “Heroes.”  Bricky-dry too because of the emotions that rose then subsided over time. Proof, as if it was needed, that poetry stirs and calms us.


The room we use in Whitley Bay Library every fortnight for Poetry with Friends had been used earlier in the week for a John Hegley gig. I’d attended the sold-out event with a couple of the Poetry with Friends gang and was still buzzing from it at Thursday’s session.

I’ve loved John’s work for years. I even had a short correspondence with him in the 1980s when he fronted the band The Popticians. I became obsessed with their single Mobile Home and over 30 years on, still know all the words. Sad but true!

mobile home

The audience at John’s gig ranged in age from school kid to octogenarian. We all laughed and joined in his songs. I had a smile on my face from start to finish and the feel-good factor lasted for days. Ah! I’m sorry I missed his impromptu performance the following evening at a buskers’ evening in Whitley Bay. Rats!

I shared my thoughts on John at Thursday’s Poetry with Friends session and read out a couple of his poems. Joyce jumped in with a wonderful rendition of Gunga Din then we went on a journey from World War Battlefields with John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields onto to Bhopal, Ken Saro Wira’s Nigeria, and finally to the classrooms of our childhood.


Rowland’s poem written to commemorate 20 years since Ken Saro-Wira’s death was one of the moments when my throat went bricky-dry. The same thing happened when Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night was shared and when Gail played us Maya Angelou performing her signature poem And Still I Rise.

Throughout our session the hot water boiler made noises similar to birdsong. Was it whistling water or the ghost of a bird trapped inside? The soundtrack was perfect for Pat’s reading of Swallows by Cumbrian poet, Mary Robinson.


Our next session’s theme is “Go As You Please” chosen by James. Bring whatever poem takes your fancy but don’t forget to reserve your seat with Gail by emailing


What links Groucho Marx and Alice Walker? Why, croquet of course! It’s amazing what you can learn at a Poetry with Friends session.

Tonight’s Poetry with Friends at The Mission was stimulating and extremely enjoyable.


Tonight’s theme was worn, as usual  like a Hawaiian Lei garland around the neck, rather than a dog collar at the throat of a bulging-eyed pitbull.

The theme was Black History Month and it took us from Africa to Australia via London, Birmingham and America. Intelligent debate jostled with a tale of playing table tennis with Susan Sarandon and,er, more William McGonagall.

Poets featured included John Agard, Phyllis Wheatley, Rita Dove, John Masefield, Alice Walker, Sheree Mack, Niyi Osundare and Louise Gluck. Maya Angelou featured four times and Audre Lorde two times.

audre lorde

Tonight was well-attended which meant participants had to leap on and off the poetic Wurlizter in order to share poems. What a ride.

Our next Poetry with Friends at the Mission is on Tuesday 21st October and the theme is Work.

Please visit Happy Planet’s blog for details on how to book plus more info on our other events including Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library on Thursday October 16th



The Poetry Exchange: nominate a poem that has been a friend to you

The Poetry Exchange celebrates the idea of poems as friends. Producer Bridget Floyer explains: ‘Through live events, recordings and the development of an online catalogue, we capture the insights of readers and share them. We work with readers, poets and actors to explore poems and what they mean to us and take the catalogue out to new audiences, inviting them to become part of the exchange.’

Ahead of their event at Durham Book Festival next month, The Poetry Exchange has an opportunity for people to have a poem recorded especially for them. On 2 October, National Poetry Day, three winners will be selected to receive a bespoke recording of their chosen poem. Nominate online at

stevie smith

%d bloggers like this: