“What is your idea of perfect happiness?’ : David Bowie’s Reading List


Inspired by Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s lecture on David Bowie’s Reading List, Lauren reflects on the joy to be found in books, music and Shared Reading. 
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The Hidden Treasure within Liverpool Central Library

panoramicWith Liverpool Literary Festival soon approaching, our Intern Lauren thought she’d get herself into the bibliophile festive spirit and take her first ever trip to Liverpool Central Library… and what a lovely morning it truly was.

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Shipping Lines: Modern Poetry in Translation

By Alison Walters

One of the sessions at Shipping Lines that fascinated me the most was the session by David and Helen Constantine. They are the current editors of Modern Poetry in Translation. Being a linguist myself, I was truly engrossed with what they had to say from start to finish. Modern Poetry in Translation is published twice a year and always has a different theme and emphasis. When Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort founded MPT in 1966 they had two principal ambitions: to publish poetry that dealt truthfully with the real contemporary world, and to benefit writers and the reading public in Britain and America by confronting them with good work from abroad.

David and Helen both read a selection of poems from the journals and I was entranced by the diverse nature of the content of the magazine; they publish from all peoples, ethnicities and countries of the world. As well as those poets that are just starting, the magazine also publishes long-established poets and new translations of older works.

Modern Poetry in Translation’s aim is to publish translations, original poems and short essays that will address such characteristic signs of our times as exile, the movement of peoples, the search for asylum, the speaking of languages outside the native home. They also want to widen and diversify the very idea of translation, and in that spirit they invite very free transformations and metamorphoses of all kinds: down the ages, across the frontiers and cultures, from one genre to another.

I know for sure they have one new subscriber!

— — —

David Constantine’s poetry and short fiction have been published in many issues of The Reader magazine  (most recently in The Reader 29 ‘Voices that Need to be Heard’). There will be more new poetry by David in The Reader published in the first issue of 2009 (The Reader 33, March 2009). You can subscribe here.

Liverpool Literary Festival “A big success!”

Renée Hemmings and Sophie Povey reflect–well, maybe enthuse is a better word–on Shipping Lines, the first Liverpool Literary Festival.

Seven days, fifty events, over thirty writers and two thousand literature lovers! The Liverpool Literary Festival has been marked as a great literary event for the Capital of Culture year.

We’ve had many emails already and here are some of the wonderful comments we’ve received:

“It was a memorable event and I am glad I didn’t miss it.”

“My 15 year old niece travelled up here for a weekend of Shipping Lines, missing school on Friday because “it’s educational and my English teacher is going to be SO jealous.”

“Congratulations … for a wonderful weekend. It was a real privilege to attend the literary events and listen to such encouraging and stimulating discussion about books and writing.”

There were many highlights over the week and the busy weekend, including the wonderful workshops and children’s events by Walker Books. The weekend part of the weekend was launched by Philip Pullman on the evening of Friday 7th November, to a packed out audience. The book signing queue at the end of the event took 45 minutes to clear, and Pullman took the time to chat to everyone which endeared him to all. Carol Ann Duffy was also very popular, and the audience was moved by her inspirational reading. And another long book signing queue!

There was something for everyone, whether it was a poetry reading, discussion or panel group.

It was a long road in the preparation of the festival, but the measure of sucess is that everyone had a brilliant time working on it, participating in it and watching it.

Thanks to all that was involved, and if you managed to get to see an event, we hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did.

[Renée, Project Manager for the Liverpool Literary Festival]

The Shipping Lines Festival has come to an end, and oh what an outstanding success it has been! Thanks to the huge amounts of support and effort from everybody at The Reader Organisation and beyond, the week flew past without any hitches, leaving audiences, writers, staff and volunteers feeling fantastic! I was based at the Bluecoat for the majority of the week, and with the welcoming support of Francisco and the rest of the team there, all events ran smoothly. The ‘Scary Scribes’ workshop, led by children’s author Tommy Donbavand, saw over 120 primary school children piling into the performance space for a gory session involving witches blood, a werewolf’s finger and other ‘relics’ too gruesome to mention, but it was a brilliant day and everybody left excited about returning to school to write their own spooky stories.

The highlight of my week has to be Simon Armitage’s poetry reading on Saturday, the second sold out event that day after Roger McGough in the morning. He was very pleased to be at the festival, and thrilled the audience with incredibly moving readings – most notably ‘You’re Beautiful’ and ‘Causeway’. All the events were incredible though, and just skimming over some of the evaluation forms, it is clear that this opinion was shared by all. So well done everybody! Muffins all round!

[Sophie, Event co-ordinator for the Liverpool Literary Festival]


Featured Poem: Great Things by Thomas Hardy

In the aftermath of Shipping Lines Liverpool Literary Festival (reviews and stories will be coming up during the week), The Reader Organisation office is in quite a state of chaos. It is also in a state of utter exultation: the festival was a great success; everyone (audience, writers, staff, volunteers) thoroughly enjoyed themselves and although we’re exhausted, it is brilliant to feel that all the hard, hard work paid off. We’re all relishing in a sense of great achievement and, although in the need of a lot of sleep and some clearing-up, we’re still standing and still smiling. So, understandably, we’re in celebration mode:

Great Things


Sweet cyder is a great thing,

A great thing to me,

Spinning down to Weymouth town

By Ridgway thirstily,

And maid and mistress summoning

Who tend the hostelry:

O cyder is a great thing,

A great thing to me!


The dance it is a great thing,

A great thing to me,

With candles lit and partners fit

For night-long revelry;

And going home when day-dawning

Peeps pale upon the lea:

O dancing is a great thing,

A great thing to me!


Love is, yea, a great thing,

A great thing to me,

When, having drawn across the lawn

In darkness silently,

A figure flits like one a-wing

Out from the nearest tree:

O love is, yes, a great thing,

A great thing to me!


Will these be always great things,

Great things to me? . . .

Let it befall that One will call,

“Soul, I have need of thee”:

What then? Joy-jaunts, impassioned flings,

Love, and its ecstasy,

Will always have been great things,

Great things to me!


Thomas Hardy

Event: Food For Thought

What do you get from books that nothing else can give you? 

Come along to The Foresight Centre between 1-2.30pm on Friday 7th November and find out!

The Reader Organisation are holding a free lunchtime event, inviting you to experience our work first-hand and to discover more about our aim to start a Reading Revolution. 

Over an informal lunch, we will be reading a selection of poetry and discussing the unique power books hold in a digital age – in exchange for your thoughts and opinions, we’ll provide you with food!

This event is not only a fantastic opportunity to find out about the work of The Reader Organisation: it also provides an occasion for people from all across the University of Liverpool and from a wide range of local arts, health, regeneration and cultural organisations to meet, make new links and exchange ideas. Most importantly, Food For Thought offers the chance to take part in an enjoyable and stimulating lunch break.

This event is part of Shipping Lines Liverpool Literary Festival.

Tickets are FREE: Please contact Casi Dylan (casidylan@thereader.org.uk/0151 794 2291) to reserve your place.

Launching a Reading Revolution

Founded at the University of Liverpool in 1997, The Reader Organisation became a charitable trust during 2008. Our aim is to bring about a Reading Revolution. Why? Because reading matters to everyone.

‘Can’t you stay a bit longer? I want to find out what happens in the story.’
Looked-after child, Wirral Children’s Service

‘Now I take the time to read every word. Before I just skim read everything. I’m starting to enjoy all the beautiful description in the books I read. I didn’t even notice it before!’
Bibby Line Group employee

‘It moves you, I mean it hits you where it meets you and means something.’
Dementia sufferer on reading poetry, Mossley Hill

‘It’s been great this – a real boost. I loved this at school but I haven’t looked at a book in fifteen years. It makes me wish I hadn’t thrown those years away, because I’d forgotten what it feels like when you read something like this, the power of words I mean’.
Client at the Kevin White Detox Unit

‘I saw many people fight their demons by stepping onto that stage. It made some of us feel, for the first time, ‘Yes. I can do this’.’
Participant in Community Shakespeare, Wirral

We’re holding a launch event at Bibby Line Group HQ, on Friday 7th November, 4.30-5.30pm – in the building that once housed Liverpool’s first public library – as part of Shipping Lines Liverpool Literature Festival.

At the launch, author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, a long-time supporter of The Reader Organisation, will read from his work – a treat not to be missed. Director of The Reader Organisation, Dr Jane Davis, will discuss the necessity for a Reading Revolution – great books reaching everybody – in the UK and beyond. Tea and cake will be served.

This is an invitation only event but if you would like to register your interest please email info@thereader.org.uk.

Posted by Jen Tomkins

Rebecca Goss at the first Liverpool Literary Festival event Monday 3rd November

The first event of the Liverpool Literary Festival is on this Monday 3rd November at the Bluecoat at 12noon. Rebecca Goss is hosting a two hour workshop over lunchtime about women’s poetry, so bring a packed lunch and join other readers and writers to discuss poems that explore key stages in the life of women.

Rebecca and the group will read and discuss poems addressing key aspects in women’s lives, taking in the poignant and the pleasurable. This will lead to a writing exercise, drawing on sensory experience and nostalgia.  No previous writing experience is necessary. This workshop is limited to 20 places and we still have some seats left.

Rebecca Goss taught creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University and is now a full-time poet. She reads nationwide and has work published in The Reader, Mslexia and Ambit and forthcoming in anthologies, The Poet’s Perspective and In the Telling.

Rebecca recently appeared at the Chapter And Verse festival at the Bluecoat alongside Paul Durcan in a lively, entertaining and heartfelt event to a packed-out audience. Although their styles were very different, it was wonderful to see two poetry readings about personal experiences and moments brought to life in such a memorable way.

There are two other workshops at the festival:

Jorie Graham is appearing in a discussion group with poems submitted by workshop attendees, and we nearly have a full session already. Many people have submitted a wide range of poems and it is shaping up to be a very interesting group. Saturday 8th November at 10am at the Bluecoat.

Ailsa Cox will be leading a creative writing workshop on short stories, one of the most demanding and yet rewarding of forms. It’s not going to take as long as a novel but it is going to ask you to be succinct. Budding and experienced writers are invited to join Ailsa Cox for a workshop which will introduce some basic concepts and give you a chance to develop your skills. No experience necessary. Sunday 9th November at 4pm at the Bluecoat. Ailsa Cox teaches creative writing at Edge Hill University. Her stories have been published widely, and have been shortlisted twice for the Stand International Short Story competition, for the V.S. Pritchett award and The Bridport Prize. She is the author of Writing Short Stories.

Remember that students can £1 tickets for all events … please visit our website www.liverpoollitfest.org.uk.

Roger McGough is a sell out at the Liverpool Literary Festival

Roger McGough is appearing at the first event to sell out at the Liverpool Literature Festival, but luckily he is appearing twice over the weekend.

In our Liverpool Poets series, Roger is hosting Liverpool Poets Two at the Bluecoat. ‘A trickster you can trust’, he is one of Britain’s best-loved poets for both adults and children. He was awarded his O.B.E. for services to poetry in 1997 and a C.B.E. last year. He was recently honoured with the Freedom  of the City of Liverpool.

In May this year the Liverpool Playhouse saw Roger McGough’s ‘Tartuffe’ a sell-out success and receive rave reviews. The Daily Post said ‘There are times when a critic is redundant and last night was one. There is absolutely nothing to criticise about Tartuffe at the Liverpool Playhouse’.

The Reader festival office has had many people enquiring about his events at the Liverpool Literary Festival, and obviously Liverpool folk can’t get enough of him.

Although his event at the Bluecoat has been sold out, the good news is that Roger McGough is appearing twice! He will be hosting a panel discussion and poetry clinic with other festival writers (Sunday 9 November at 4pm) and it will be a fantastic opportunity to see and hear him in this close-up interactive event in which the audience asks the panel to select poems for particular occaisions, seasons and reasons. So get your thinking caps on and come along to put this panel of experienced writers of poetry through their paces by finding instant recomendations for your particular purposes.

This should be lively and entertaining hour indeed! Please see our website for event details, updates on panel members and information on how to book tickets. Even my five year old daughter is excited about the prospect of Roger McGough coming to Liverpool as she’s learning his children’s poem called Gruesome for school!

I was sitting in the sitting room
toying with some toys
when I saw a door marked GRUESOME
and heard a gruesome noise.

Cautiously I opened it
and there to my surprise
a little Grue was sitting there
with tears in its eyes.

Oh little Grue please tell me
what is it ails thee so.
I am so small it said
the other Grue’s don’t want to know

EXERCISES are the answer
each day you must do some
and do you know what
the very next day he GREW SOME.

And don’t forget all the other great Liverpool Poets attending the festival: Brian Patten, Paul Farley, McKendrick, Peter Robinson, John Redmond and Deryn Rees-Jones.

Please see our website www.liverpoollitfest.org.uk for full details.

Festival Thoughts

Tim, a volunteer with Get Into Reading who was also involved with the recent Shakespeare in the Park performance, shares his enthusiasm for putting literature at the heart of communities.

With the Liverpool Literary Festival approaching I have found myself considering its significance as an event for everyone, with accessibility as well as quality at its core. The presence of Philip Pullman should help. Pullman writes with such clarity and yet such challenging depth that to label his work ‘children’s literature’ or ‘fantasy’, or any single category, is clearly far too narrow.

In The Amber Spyglass, the last of the His Dark Materials trilogy, for instance, the simplest of scenes possess a deep metaphysical understanding. When Lyra tries to wake herself from a near-fatal slumber, her processes are described thus: ‘She flung a mental lifeline to that physical self, and tried to recall the feeling of being in it: all the sensations that made up being alive.’ The conflicting division between body and soul is rarely described with such clear sightedness. This book was the first children’s book to win the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize (in 2002); Pullman’s work has frequently challenged the preconception of writing for children as something separate from and inferior to the literary.

That kind of challenge is part of what the festival should be about and the large number of reading groups, after-school events, even a reading of Melville’s Moby Dick, suggest that it is. Having seen the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Winter’s Tale in Birkenhead, and its popularity both with those well versed in Shakespeare and those completely unfamiliar, it has become apparent to me that when literature is positively offered to the public it is not ignored; the openness and will are there in ways that are often unrecognised.

Art, when it is encouraged to flourish, lodges itself in the community and becomes part of a vibrant relationship. I hope, simply, that this festival increases that realisation.