Archives for posts with tag: Philip Larkin

Poetry with Friends, the poetry appreciation session with a difference has been running for over three years now. Gail Curry and I started the sessions back in summer 2014 in North Shields and we continue to meet fortnightly on Tuesday nights but now in Whitley Bay’s Big Local building.

We’ve seen attendees come and go, come back and others, our regulars, have hung around like an unpleasant odour. Gail and I have tried to get rid of them but no joy. ONLY JOKING David, Alan, Rowland, Linda etc etc!

Last Tuesday’s meeting saw me flying solo without Gail but with eight poetry fans.  I decided to ask everyone to name their favourite poet and biscuit. The answers (in no order):

Garibaldi, Roger McGough, Dark Chocolate Hob Nobs, Shortbread, Gail Curry, TS Eliot, Chocolate Digestives, Edward Lear, Larkin, Ted Hughes, Tunnocks Tea Cakes, WB Yeats and a brand of biscuits I can’t remember (and I can’t read my handwriting). Sorry. Here’s a picture of Boyd Tunnock, the man who invented Tunnocks Tea Cakes. Awesome!

We shared poems by Hughes, Larkin, Geoffrey Smith, Dylan Thomas, Wilfred Owen, Kipling, ee cummings, Geordie Broon of Backworth, Maggie Gibson, Tom Hirons, Sassoon, June Portlock, Dorothy Parker, Carol Ann Duffy plus poems by attendees: Rowland, Alan and I.

We’ll meet again on Tuesday 21st November and on 5th December. New members are welcome. All we ask is you contact us beforehand so we can look out for you and make you welcome. Email gail@happyplanetcreative or phone Gail on 07752356880. Each session costs £4.50.


I woke up this morning cursing Sir Cliff Richard. Again. It’s the fifth morning in a row I’ve woken up with his 1961 song Theme for a Dream in my head.

At Tuesday evening’s Poetry with Friends session, one of the gang, The Legendary Ken Creen mentioned Sir Cliff’s 55 year old song and it started the ludicrously catchy tune playing in my head. I’d heard Theme for a Dream for the very first time earlier that day. Now I can’t get the rotten song out of my head. Thanks, Ken.

stevie smith

The Poetry with Friends session was fun, uplifting and filled with reassuringly bad behaviour. We’re old enough to know better but we don’t care. We managed to share some poems by Stevie Smith, Julia Darling, Ted Hughes, Ruth Pitter, Philip Larkin and Maureen Oliphant’s fantastic Mrs O’Malley from her Irish Poems pamphlet. Several of us read our own work too.


Poetry with Friends is run by Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC. Our new shop opened on Friday on Ilfracombe Gardens in Whitley Bay. It’s open every day apart from Mondays. I’ll be running creative writing workshops there in October, November and December. Please come and visit!



It’s over a year now since artist Gail Curry and I started Poetry with Friends at The Mission in North Shields. We had no idea how popular our poetry appreciation sessions with a difference would be.


The sessions spread to Whitley Bay library on Thursday mornings and this summer we enjoyed four sessions in The Station Masters’ Community Wildlife Garden next to Whitley Bay metro.

station master

And it was in the garden where our last Poetry with Friends session was held in July. We enjoyed the sun and shared poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, e e cummings, Walt Whitman, Siegfried Sassoon, Philip Larkin, W.B Yeats and my favourite of the morning: Lupins by Seamus Heaney.

We talked of lupins but also the sound, look and rhythmn of words.  We looked for and were delighted to find links between art, music and poetry.


We also discussed Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and heard one of his poems.

I got embroiled in what I was saying and seemed to lose control of my fingers. That’s the power of poetry. And of politics.


Poetry with Freinds returns to The Mission on Tuesday 8th September at 7pm and at Whitley Bay’s library on Thursday 17th September at 11am. If you would like to attend please confirm by emailing Gail

Newcomers always welcome!


Last Tuesday:  7/7/15. A time to remember what I observed on that day ten years ago.

I was one of the many confused and bewildered London workers trying to phone or text from central London streets that morning. What was going on?

Then we found out what was going on.

Last Tuesday I had not one but two poetry appreciation groups to attend. The first was the poetry appreciation group of the mid-Northumberland U3A. If you don’t know about the U3A, you’re missing out. The University of the Third Age has almost 350,000 members in the UK! See for more information.

The poetry group meet near Longhirst once a month and share favourite poems over coffee and biscuits. It was wonderful to see and hear the similarities between this group and our Poetry with Friends groups in North Tyneside.


I shared my own work as well as introducing the group to poems by Mary Oliver and Vicky Arthurs. Members also shared Heaney’s The Tollund Man and Rhythms for Sonny by Easton Lee.

easton lee

I hadn’t read Lee, a Chinese-Jamaican poet before. I also hadn’t heard about Centre 42, playwright Arnold Wesker’s  idea in 1960 for spreading the best of culture beyond the elite. Thanks to mid-Northumberland U3A for enlightening me! I thoroughly enjoyed my morning.


In the evening we had our final Tuesday evening Poetry with Friends before our summer break. We gathered once more in the Station Masters’ garden next to Whitley Bay metro and shared work including Long Lion Days and Days by Philip Larkin plus work by David Bateman and new original work by group members Alan, Elizabeth, David and Linda.


We talked about 7/7 as three of us were in London that day. One poem shared had the line “London’s Bent Citadels” and I misheard a poet’s name, mistaking it for Pam St Clements, actress from soap opera Eastenders. Jason Connery and Hilary Mantel popped up in conversation too.

Sadly Larkin’s  “hammer of heat” did not hit us. We were freezing and wound up finishing early and legging it to nearby pub, The Rockcliffe to defrost.

The weekly pub quiz was running. We should have entered as I reckon we’d have cleaned up. But what would we have called ourselves? Why  “Are ‘Friends’ Poetic?” of course. It would be a nod to 1980s culture when pub quizzes were all the rage!


Poetry with Friends at The Mission in North Shields will return in September. Meanwhile our Thursday group will meet in the Station Masters’ Garden this Thursday at 11 am. If you would like to join us please book a place by contacting Gail on 07752356880 or email


“Will it, won’t it rain?” I asked over and over yesterday morning as I prepped for our second Poetry with Friends session at The Station Masters’ Community Wildlife Garden next to Whitley Bay Metro.

My trademark optimism allowed a flask to be filled with sugary tea. Yes we would jolly well start the session in the garden and run to nearby cafe, Olives if the rain started.


The rain came down like stair rods…after our session ended so we got to enjoy two hours of poetry and chat in the garden. And Geoff brought choc ices to share. Yum!

We discussed gardens, the proposed Westminster Abbey stone floor memorial to Philip Larkin and Simon Armitage’s appointment as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

Geoff shared one of Armitage’s poems, Poundland which describes a shop manager as having “A Face Like Doncaster.” But Simon! A shop manager’s lot is not a happy one, you know. Academic posts might not produce faces like Doncaster but brow-beaten middle managers have every right to look like Doncaster..or any other Yorkshire town you care to mention.

Pauline’s recital of The Roman Centurion’s Song by Rudyard Kipling hit the spot. I was moved by Kipling’s words, the thought of how hard life must have been for the soldier and by Pauline’s reading. The phrase “June’s long-lighted days” comes from the poem.

We enjoyed listening to the poems as well as the sounds around us including passing metros, wood pigeons and the distant sound of a lawnmower. Sounds like a cue for a Larkin poem…

The full list of poems:

  • Cut Grass by Philip Larkin
  • The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
  • Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
  • Poundland by Simon Armitage
  • The Roman Centurion’s Song by Rudyard Kipling
  • Spring Quiet by Christina Rossetti
  • I Have Started to Say by Philip Larkin
  • The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
  • Ride the Breeze by Simon Bridgewood
  • Sheep Fair Day by Kerry Hardie
  • The Rain it Raineth by Charles Bowen (authorship in question…)
  • To Di For by Geoff
  • A Bitterness by Mary Oliver
  • Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf by Roald Dahl
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost


Lots of Mary Oliver. Oh we love Mary Oliver! Perhaps we should write and tell her how much she is appreciated here in North Tyneside.

Thanks to Sara Lee at The Station Masters’ Garden for sorting out the chairs for us. I think we almost persuaded her to join us at another session in the garden. I’ll keep on coaxing her! We will return on Tuesday 7th July at 7pm and on Thursday 16th July at 11 am.


Before that Poetry with Friends at The Mission this coming Tuesday 30th June is all about music. We will be sharing a few of our favourite tunes. Who will start dancing first? I’ve got my money on a couple of likely candidates. Book yourself a place by contacting Gail on 07752356880 or email

Finally if you’ve never visited the Station Masters’ Garden then shame on you! Check out the website  as well as facebook


The theme for tonight’s Poetry with Friends at The Mission was “Numbers”, suggested last time by The Legendary Ken Creen. I had forgotten this but that didn’t matter. Most of the friends brought number-related poems…and cake and biccies.


Featured poets included A P Herbert, Edward Thomas, Philip Larkin, Mary Cornish, Tara Bergin and Wes Magee.

Benjamin Zephaniah and Adrian Mitchell both featured twice and Alan performed two of his poems.He also produced a birthday cake for me in the break and got me to blow out the candles and make a wish. I didn’t need to. All my wishes have come true thanks to Happy Planet!

Happy Planet

And Happy Birthday to Happy Planet: one year old on Friday 13th!

Our next session at The Mission will be on Tuesday 24th March. The theme is Council/Counsel. Please visit Happy Planet’s site for more details

Another evening of appreciating poetry at Happy Planet Creative’s HQ, The Mission in Rudyerd Street, North Shields.

Two new poetry lovers joined the regular crew and work discussed included Emily Dickinson’s Ample Make this bed, Jenny Joseph’s Dawn Walkers and Heather Buck’s  Evening.

The theme for the evening was Night Life but we went wandering down different conversational cul de sacs before being called back for tea and cake.

dead poets society

Walt Whitman’s  By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame led to a chat about the late Robin Williams. This seemed like a good excuse for a still from  Dead Poet’s Society. Oh Captain my captain.

The full list was:

Emily Dickinson Ample Make this bed

Walt Whitman’s  By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame

e.e. cummings Nobody Loses All The Time

Alison Chisolm The Office Party

Jenny Joseph Dawn Walkers

Marc Travis Car Far

Anon The Curse of Cruising: It Must Be Time To Eat

Thomas Moore Oft in the Stilly Night

John Betjeman Slough

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Wanderer’s Night Song

Seamus Heaney An August Night

Philip Larkin Wild Oats

Heather Buck Evening

Dylan Thomas Should Lanterns Shine

Edna St Vincent Millay First Fig

The next poetry appreciation evening will take place on Tuesday 26th August and the theme will be Nautical.



Happy Planet Creative Arts are reopening after a short break with social crafting on Wednesday 23rd July.

My next poetry appreciation evening hosted by Happy Planet will take place in North Shields’ Mission next Tuesday 29th. Booking essential email

Our theme is journey/travel. I have been catching up with some summer reading. I think The Whitsun Weddings is relevant to next Tuesday’s gathering…

Colour reading

Photo credit: Phil Punton Photography

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