At LJMU we’re excited to celebrate our contributions to the poetical world, as we salute the talents of our staff and students alike. We’re even more excited to learn that one of our senior Creative Writing lecturers, Helen Tookey, has recently been shortlisted for a prestigious 2019 Forward Prize for her collection of poems, ‘City of Departures’.
Another of our Creative Writing lecturers, Sarah Maclennan, also has a particular passion for the art of poetry and believes this form of literature is one we can all benefit from at some point in our lives:
“The beauty of poetry is how accessible it is as a form of creativity - we all have access to words. At a poetry open mic, nobody judges you on your grammar or spelling, but simply the words you choose to say. Poetry helps us to capture and communicate feelings, moments and situations. It can be totally imaginary or completely autobiographical. Sharing our experiences through poetry creates understanding and empathy, opening up a window into other people’s lives.”
Sarah’s own poem, dedicated to the city of Liverpool, ‘Heart of the City’, picked up the Arts Council England funded Poetry in the City award and was exhibited all across the city in libraries, offices and on billboards. Speaking of the broad demographic of poetry enthusiasts Sarah has encountered in Liverpool, she says:
“Liverpool is a city full of poets! I’ve attended open mic nights where performers have ranged from taxi drivers to surgeons, to people recovering from addiction - even a tagger of young offenders. I believe everyone will eventually write a poem - it's only a matter of time. We use poetry to capture a moment or an emotion that connects with the reader/listener in a way that more prosaic forms of language simply cannot manage.”
You can have a read of Sarah and Helen’s poems below…
Heart of the City
by Sarah Maclennan
In the space
between two heart
Copper birds shake off their chains
A radio tower slumps, rubber-spined
Stone lions slip from plinths
Cathedrals lumber closer
Bronze statues query pigeons
Remind me again, who am I?
Anfield & Goodison wrestle
Three flirtatious Graces sing
Make us a mirror, River
Theatres belch trapped laughter
Parks play Chinese Whispers
Avenues of trees pass it on, pass it on
Docks stroke the flanks of ships
One-way systems unravel
city bones of wood, iron, glass, stone
and life pulses through the City
breath in its lungs
blood in its veins
and - at its heart – you
by Helen Tookey
Stone trees grow here. Yellow eyes
peer down: lit windows,
clockface gods. The river-road
is back-projected. Headlights trail
plasma fingers, blue-white flux
beyond the palings. We read sound
through our spines – the quarter-chimes
that draw in air the outline
of this hour, open the borders
and close them again.
Stone pulls: we lose definition, sink
to the forest-floor. Something in us
is giving, as the repurposed city
breaks and gives, black water pushing
at the dock-gates, lapping
at the stone steps, ships
coming in and in on the flood-tide.
wandering the wet quaysides holding the word I couldn’t use, a bright coin in the wrong currency.
*Published by Carcanet Press and the poem is reprinted here with their permission.
If reading Sarah and Helen’s poems has inspired you to put pen to paper, why not consider a Creative Writing degree? LJMU has a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses with places available now. Take a look at our courses.