Twin Cities
Poetry Exchange

with photos and reviews from

Cork and Coventry poets

July and November 2010

As the twinning relationship deepens between Cork and Coventry, so does the poetry. 2010 produced yet another eventful exchange with poets Barry Patterson and Anthony Owen performing at Ó Bhéal and the Whitehouse in Limerick last July. Aside from their excellent readings, the Coventrians were also treated to excursions to Cobh and Lough Gur.

[L-R] Tony Owen, Paul Casey, Deputy Lord Mayor Denis O’Flynn and Barry Patterson at Ó Bhéal

The return leg in November turned out to be the most exciting yet, with the four Cork-based poets being billed prominently for two separate events within the Month-long Coventry Peace Festival, marking 70 years since the blitz. Five readings in four days: Day 1 – The Tin Angel, Coventry’s monthly poetry evening (and answer to Ó Bhéal); Day 2 – Polesworth Abbey, after walking the Polesworth poetry trail with local poet Malcolm Dewhirst.

Polesworth Abbey Gatehouse

This included a visit to the famous 14th Century Gatehouse where Michael Drayton was educated, where John Donne and Ben Johnson among others would meet and formed the Polesworth Circle, and where many Polesworth citizens (and scholars in general) believe Shakespeare was educated; Day 3 – An excursion to the British Library in London and then to Bloomsbury where we read upstairs in the Rugby Tavern for Declan Ryan’s excellent Days of Roses reading series, alongside poets Cherry Smyth and Christopher Horton among other fine poets;

Tony and Paul at HillzFM

Day 4 – an hour at Coventry’s HillFM Radio Station with Tony and Paul reading poems and talking about poetry before the final reading at the Coventry Central Library, which was followed by a workshop on haiku to four young aspiring poets.

Tony Owen

Tony and Cork poet John Bracken at Ó Bhéal

Dear Paul,

On behalf of the Coventry poets I wish to thank you, Sue Cosgrave, Joseph Horgan & Billy Ramsell for
flying over and becoming an integral part of the Coventry Peace Festival last November. With such an array of performances it is hard to articulate a particular highlight but I guess if I had to choose one. It was the workshop we both did together with Keresley Grange Primary School at Coventry Library. To see the kids respond and produce a high level of work was very rewarding and demonstrative of the power poetry has to transcend boundaries of creativity.

Tony and Paul’s haiku workshop

The Deputy Mayor was delighted and I think rather surprised at the high number of people who attended the readings. All the chairs were taken and to see people order books and show an interest in why you all were over was encouraging. It was positive that the Lord Mayor mentioned in the official brochure of the importance of poetry in the festival. People are still talking about the reading at the Tin Angel hailing it as one of the best in 7 years – a testament to the diverse talents of the Irish guest poets and a clear desire to keep this important link sustainable between both cities. When we both performed on HILLZ FM and were interviewed about poetry’s place in times of conflict I wasn’t aware the audience figures were over 20,000. And they are STILL playing our poems 6 weeks on.

The Coventry Irish Society who represent the ‘10%’ of Coventry’s Irish populace were visibly moved by all of the poetry and Joe Horgan’s poetry was very relevant to them, for example, When the Irish came to England to have Children – all beautiful poems, read with conviction. It is important to keep this link – just look at the circulation figures for the peace festival programme which included poetry:

1) Coventry Blitz 70 year anniversary booklet – 20,000 copies
2) Official Coventry Peace Festival Booklet – 40,000 copies
3) Coventry Telegraph – 48,075 copies
4) Hillz FM – 20,000 listeners
5) Combined Website visitors – 50,000+

That does not include the placements of posters at main arterial routes throughout Coventry. I am aware Ireland is having huge financial difficulties but I want to make a plea to everyone who has supported the twin link – The following is a comment from one of the kids from the school we did the workshop with;

‘I really liked the workshop because it made me think how poetry can say a lot with so little words, can we do it next year?’

There you are! Can we do it next year? If we have sustainability we have a legacy and all we need are bare resources to make a difference now and for tomorrow.
Antony Owen.

Sue Cosgrave

Sue in London

For me, the Cork-Coventry poetry exchange was a wonderful opportunity to meet talented poets from across the water, and to read before a very receptive and appreciative audience. There was great buzz on our first night at the Tin Angel, a venue in downtown Coventry that hosts monthly poetry readings not unlike those in our own Ó Bhéal in Cork. Polesworth was a remarkable place, not only for its many historic buildings and Abbey, but also for its Poetry Trail, something each town should have.

[L-R] Billy, Joe, Sue, Barry and Malcolm discuss Headstone Poetry

Thanks are due to local poet Mal Dewhirst for the hospitality and for his knowledgeable and informative tour of this historic town. I must also thank all those who put such effort into organising this exchange and for hosting us in Coventry particularly Antony Owen, who spared no effort in making this a most memorable visit. It takes months of preparation to organise such an event and would not have been possible without a counterpart in Cork, so thank you.

Joseph Horgan

Joe samples the Tin Angel’s local brew

It is surprising how much poetry you can cram into a few days. Surprising and uplifting. I’ll never forget the atmosphere in the Tin Angel on the first night. The poetry came alive. Beer and chats and late night walks to the curry house. Poetry amongst the redbrick and the backstreets.

Joe in Polesworth Abbey

From the beats of a bar to the airy spaces of a church and you get a different sound from so much concrete when you walk those streets.

I heard one of the organisers say to another one after we had finished a reading and were sitting on lounges in a back room, like rock stars, ‘ Man, the buzz, the atmosphere, that was f***ing brilliant.’ And if truth be told, it f***ing was. And I haven’t even mentioned London. For me? Just one last thing. Thanks.

Billy Ramsell

Billy and Joe on the Polesworth poetry trail

It was a great privilege to be involved in this year’s Cork-Coventy poetry exchange. For my money it was the best visit yet. We received a fine welcome from the word-loving crowd at the Tin Angel, Cov’s hub of poetry outspokenness. Particularly memorable was the session in the central library, which was part of the festival of peace, an annual event that commemorates the bombing of the city by the Luftwaffe during World War II.

[L-R]Paul, Tony, Sue, Billy, Joe, Deputy Lord Mayor Kieran Mulhall and Jon at the Central Library

Mention should also be made of the excursion to nearby Polesworth, where we read at the partially-ancient cathedral and were given a tour of the town’s innovative and inspiring poetry trail. I hope this exchange continues and expands in the years to come. My thanks to all involved, especially Paul Casey and Antony Owen. Go raibh maith agaibh agus go n-eirí libh sa todhchaí.

Barry Patterson

Barry and a blue dragonfly at Lough Gur

It was a first for me, & an honour & a pleasure to be invited over to Cork By Ó Bhéal, last July. Antony Owen & myself spent some very chilled out & happy days in your city making new friends, reading our work & hearing some brilliant local poets also. Although these days I am a Coventry poet, I grew up on the banks of the River Tyne & I sensed a kind of similarity between Cork & Newcastle, so I felt right at home. There are also so many things that make your city a truly unique & special place.

The hospitality shown to us was spot on, just right. We had some quality time with Paul Casey & everyone, but plenty to ourselves too, to explore & seek our own inspiration.

Barry, Tony and Whitehouse founder and frontman Barney Shehan

Paul also drove us over to read at the Whitehouse in Limerick, which was a great day out. It was wonderful to get out of town, visit the countryside & see some ancient places.

Many thanks to the City of Cork & especially to the warmth & generosity of all our hosts & bardic friends over the water.

British Library with St.Pancras Station in the background

A particular thanks goes to Tony Owen this year, for his tireless and successful pursuit of accommodation and funding opportunities. Thanks to all involved in the 2010 exchange, with an emphatic Thank You to both Coventry City Council and Colin Scott of the Coventry Central Library for being the latest contributors to this annual series of events, thus helping to make the reciprocal journey one of utmost quality.

The annual Coventry-Cork poetry exchange is made possible by the The Cork City Council’s Twinning Committee. Coventry and Stalingrad were the world’s first twin cities, while Coventry became Cork’s first twin city in 1958. Cork’s other five twins are Swansea, Rennes, Cologne, San Francisco and Shanghai.