A Reading Group insight into National Poetry Day

Large chelmondiston group

On 4 October, National Poetry Day was celebrated across the UK, in schools, libraries, bookshops, hospitals and more. There were poetry recommendations for all ages, and a special list for reading groups.

Chelmondiston Book Group took up the challenge of reading and reviewing all of the suggested books, and you can find out more about them, and their poetry experience, below.

Chelmondiston Book Group

Chelmondiston Book Group was formed in 2008 and at one point had twelve members of varying ages. Over the years, this has reduced to the current membership of seven, all of whom are over 60 and female.

We meet once a month in the local hostelry, where we enjoy a healthy lunch and engage in lively discussion on a variety of topics. Ostensibly, discussion of the book takes place after we have eaten, to accommodate those who do not wish to eat. The table is often somewhat crowded as we bring and share articles and reviews we have read, as well as books which we hope to persuade others to read as our next venture. It is often the case that we go home carrying more books than we arrived with.

We try to be all-embracing in our choices. This year we have tackled, among others, authors such as Thackeray, F Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, Tolstoy and Kate Atkinson. We keep a record book detailing dates, attendance, book titles, quotations from our own critiques and we give each book an average assessment.

Our discussions range from books to films, television, theatre and music performances. We go to local and London venues and were delighted, this year, to be invited to take part in National Poetry Day, thus reigniting our love of poetry by having eleven new titles to read and review. We even had a poetry reading evening, which we hope to continue as a regular feature.

Chelmondiston is a small village in Suffolk on a tiny peninsular in a beautiful part of the country. We consider ourselves very lucky to have found each other to share our love of literature without necessarily having to venture far from home.

Shadowing experience

Chelmondiston Book Group has provided us with fantastic insights in the varied poetry books they read.

On Rise Like Lions, compiled by Ben Okri, they said:

Small rise like lions 400

Overall, the five sections of the anthology worked very well in conveying the music of poetry and exploring the theme of power and there is a very good range of familiar and less familiar poems from a wide range of cultural and historical backgrounds.

A lovely anthology to keep and treasure. The last section on truth, however, was the most demanding, perhaps because of the final poem by Shelley, which is much longer than the others and will require deeper reading. The final lines provide the title for the book:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number –
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many – they are few

They also read Luck is the Hook by Imtiaz Dharker:

Small luck is the hook 400

This collection of poems, illustrated beautifully by the author, deals with themes of love, loss, identity and displacement. They are very interesting poems – the poet’s varied background influences and life experiences have allowed her to tap a wide range of styles and situations to good effect. Thaw is a good example of her impressive powers of description of an emotional event without recourse to complicated references. Some of the mini themes are interestingly developed in a few poems – frozen Thames and broken china as well as the usual unresolved family issues.

All in all, a relaxing and thought provoking read; some found that they got a lot more out of the poems on a second reading. The Sound of your Name was particularly powerful, invoking the meaning of grief but showing how it could be managed to help the living. It is always fun, in a book, to see where the title will appear. In this one, it came in the very last poem, cleverly tucked between a fish and the land. A book to savour.

Get involved

Find out more about all of the recommended poetry books for reading groups and what Chelmondiston Book Group thought of them.

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