We are offered an ‘injection of poetry’ every Wednesday at the fantastic LUNCH POEMS in Leeds, created by Dr Helen Mort, Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow in the School of English (University of Leeds). The sessions have been squarely international in outlook so far, ranging from the continuing inequalities in publishing, particularly for Black and Asian poets, to Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, written in New York in 1964.
Malika Booker, Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at the University of Leeds opened the series, with an important discussion about poetry and advocacy in relation to the work of Toi Derricotte and Bernadine Evaristo. Helen Mort read poems by Norman MacCaig at the next session, and I gave a reading of Tony Harrison’s work in the third session. I read some of Harrison’s early poems, including “Hands”: a poem first published when he was a student in Leeds in the magazine Poetry and Audience, republished in his first pamphlet, Earthworks. This short collection was one of four pamphlets published by Northern House, hand-set at the University of Leeds in 1964. Detailed drafts and notebooks relating to this collection can be found in the extensive Tony Harrison archive in the Brotherton Library at Leeds. Most recently, Dr Matthew Boswell gave a fascinating reading and discussion of poems by John Berryman and Frank O’Hara.
There are more fantastic readings to follow, which will include the work of Elizabeth Bishop, John Riley, Jenny Joseph, W.B. Yeats and many more. I’d highly recommend that you come along to the School of English at the University of Leeds on Wednesdays at 12.30 for a half hour break in your day and a chance to discover writers who will inspire you.