Last year I got in touch with the chairman of Nottingham Poetry Society (Jeremy Duffield) to hear his thoughts on the energy and creativity in poetry in our area, and Jeremy was very kind enough to answer some of my questions and agree to let me publish them on Ash Watson Poetry.
The interview script is below. If you have any questions for me or Jeremy don’t hesitate to get in touch via the comments below, through Twitter/Facebook or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, make sure to check out the official site for Nottingham Poetry Society after reading, and of course, Jeremy’s personal website where you can read some of his work and keep up to date with events and readings.
Jeremy, we’re both from Heanor. Tell me, where is the creativity in our area? Where are the poets hiding?
As far as I am aware there is very little in Heanor. Nottingham and Derby both have a thriving poetry scene. Both have universities with their own poetry groups. In Nottingham there are a few other groups besides NPS, for instance, poetry at Hotel Deux, and another group who meet at the Broadway Theatre in Nottingham. Derby has its own Poetry Society and also an ad hoc group who meet once a month at DEDA. Both Nottingham and Derbyshire have Stanza groups which meet regularly. The Nottingham group tends to buy and study individual collections by contemporary poets, while the Derbyshire group meet monthly at various venues throughout the county and share their own work.
When promoting ‘the best in poetry’, how is it decided what is best? What do you look for in poetry? I’m curious about this because of how much poetry has changed in structure, form and subjects over the years.
You raise some very interesting questions. What indeed is the best in poetry? As you have probably seen from the NPS website the Nottingham Poetry Society was formed in 1941 as the Nottingham Branch of the Poetry Society of London. I do not know if, at that time, it was more a poetry appreciation society, but very early on in its history there were members who wrote poetry. As in every other walk of life the changes that take place will always be criticized by those who regard what they see as ‘the best’ , which is probably what they first experienced and enjoyed. Our Society evolves and changes with each new change of membership, but our principle aim is to give a voice to those who enjoy sharing their love of poetry. We do this by having a programme of readings, workshops and critiquing sessions.
I’ve also had a look on your personal website and I’ve enjoyed reading some of your poems. I particularly enjoyed ‘Drinking Companions’. I often find myself jotting about people I see in my little carry-around notebook. But this also got me thinking; who are your favourite poets? Do you read diversely or are you a fan of particular styles of poetry? Do you and other members of the society enjoy similar poets/poems?
I first became interested in poetry at school when I had to study the poetry of Matthew Arnold. I can honestly say the delight I found in some of the longer poems changed my life. In fact, on leaving school, the first poetry book I bought was the collected works of Matthew Arnold. It was some years later that I actually tried my hand at writing poetry – my first efforts being based on some of the themes in M.A’s work. Later I joined the Nottingham Poetry Society and was introduced to contemporary poetry, small press magazines, competitions etc. I read a lot of poetry. Much I enjoy and admire. Quite a lot I question as to what the ‘poet’ is trying to say, or why. I have my own ideas as to what I think is the ‘best’ but I am tolerant of much that I don’t understand, and I also enjoy reading translations of poetry from other languages.
My own personal ‘favourite’ poets would include Billy Collins, Sean O’Brien, and Don Paterson, and for the greatest enjoyment of reading poetry aloud I urge you to beg, borrow or steal a copy of the ‘Ingoldsby Legends’ – written in 1840 by Richard Harris Barham aka Thomas Ingoldsby. It is unique.
How does Nottingham Poetry Society go about supporting/accommodating spoken word poetry? So far I’ve found this an art to be becoming increasingly popular. Does Nottingham Poetry Society support other forms of poetry such as performance poetry, or does it promote the best in written poetry?
While NPS tends to support mainly the written word we do have an annual Performance Poetry Competition and Slam which is usually well supported by local poets who like to perform their work. Our other competition is the Nottingham Open Poetry Competition which receives entries both nationally and from abroad. As it is an open competition there is no set theme, so it is difficult to answer your question as what style we usually receive. Broadly, it would probably be easier to say poetry written from reminiscences, experiences and observations.