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Books & Quills: ‘Poetry by Prescription’

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Books & Quills ‘Poetry by Prescription’

By Eleanor Hirst

I think that it is safe to say poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea. For most people, it naturally just reminds them of copiously analysing Carol Ann Duffy at GCSE level, and wanting to burn these anthologies after a year of your teacher gushing over reading out overtly lesbian-toned stanzas. Nevertheless, poetry is not easy to engage with. When you combine poetry with surrealism; it is not the easiest of poetry genres to identify with for the general public.

Books & Quills hosted Poetry by Prescription to precisely address this notion that poetry is not accessible. Now at first glance, an event titled ‘Poetry by Prescription’ is not the most friendly of titles. However, what it does achieve is both an intrigued and confused look from most people. Intrigued by the title, I headed down to the event hosted at a shop within the Deiniol centre in Bangor.

The first thing I noticed about the shop was the assorted dangling glasses, held up by string, in the front door of the shop.  Entering the shop, I remained yet still confused by the individuals wandering around in lab coats and was quickly directed to a sight test and given a ‘poetry cookie’. Looking through a telescope, I read a poem composed of odd newspaper words, but as I started to read the poem, it became gradually unreadable.

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Questioning my eyesight, but also my sanity, I moved on to the next test, which was hearing. I was escorted to a dark room with mirrors whilst poetry was read at me from different angles. A Jenga set remained in front of me, with various nouns, verbs and adjectives scribbled onto it. Pulling out pieces of the Jenga I managed to compose my own bizarre poem.

Having a moment to breathe from such tests, I managed to look at the exhibitions of people’s poetry and photographs. Reading poems by Ezra Pound, R.S Thomas and William Burroughs, my opinion of poetry as elitist disintegrated and I found myself to be literally engaging with poetry physically for one of the first times.

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Over the course of 3 hours, Books & Quills had around a 100 people visit, both locals and students alike. It was quite surprising how many of the general public were intrigued, entered the shop and engaged with the poetry event.

With the arrival of individuals from the poetry walk for the International Poetry Festival, the shop was packed. Poets and writers (both students and professionals) participated in open mic slots and it was interesting to visually and orally engage with poetry.

Poetry should not be intimidating or be seen as elitist by any means. Books & Quills approached the topic of surrealism in an interesting and enlightening way – plus Carol Ann Duffy wasn’t involved.

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