LEDBURY Poetry Festival has revealed that Paul Henry will be Herefordshire’s first ever poet in residence. He will open his residency with a performance next Thursday, September 19.
Not only is it Herefordshire’s first poetry residency, it’s also Paul’s. “I’ve never been in a position to take up a residency, but the flexibility of this appointment makes it possible.
“I have a number of day jobs,”
he says, explaining the value of that flexibility. “I’m doing more and more radio work, including a programme for Radio 4 about Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army). I was a huge Dad’s Army fan and I wondered whether this teddy bear-like character was the real Arnold Ridley.”
Paul also works at Ty Newydd National Writers’ Centre of Wales, where he says, he works with young students to “remystify and demystify poetry”. He lectures “now and then” at the University of Glamorgan and gives careers guidance in Cardif, working with teenagers “who’ve left the education system but are not necessarily done with it”.
“I also do one-to-one mentoring run by Literature Wales, where I help poets with their first manuscripts.
Tomorrow, a short story, Jogging with Mozart, will be broadcast on Radio 4, “I don’t normally write prose,” he says of the story. “For me everything revolves around poetry. It’s my life, my vocation.
“Becoming Herefordshire’s first poet in residence is certainly an honour. Its place names alone – Much Birch, Hoarwithy, Little Dewchurch, Aconbury – taste of poetry. I’m looking forward to meeting old friends from past poetry workshops I’ve run in the county and to making new ones among aspiring poets of all ages.
“What I am hoping to do in the residency, with the help of the organisers, is a combination of poetry workshops and readings, in the hope of perhaps lighting a few blue touchpapers, and maybe discovering new writers, meeting people needing a little help with their work, or who simply want to share their work and their passion.
“It takes a lot of courage to turn up to a poetry workshop. I’d like to feel that no one has walked out of one of my workshops having not had positive feedback. I like to have a laugh and tune people into the current zeitgeist of verse.
“I’m hoping to meet new poets of all ages and backgrounds and help them if they need help. And share the common nerve that is poetry.”
Ledbury Poetry Festival’s artistic director Chloe Garner said: “Herefordshire’s reputation as a county of poetry and song is well deserved. Poet Laureate John Masefield lived here and Ledbury Poetry Festival is poetry’s equivalent of Wimbledon or Glastonbury, so this prestigious post celebrates Herefordshire’s many contributions to poetry and is long overdue.”
Paul Henry’s first performance as Herefordshire’s poet in residence is at Leominster Library next Thursday at 6pm. It is hosted by the reading group which has been running at the library for 10 years.
The Herefordshire poet in residence position is a welcome addition to the Ledbury Poetry Festival’s poet in residence post, which is held each year for the ten days of the festival, and has been made possible through funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Poetry on Loan.
The post is initiated by the festival in partnership with Herefordshire libraries through Poetry on Loan.
Paul Henry has published five collections of poetry, most recently The Brittle Sea: New and Selected Poems.