Nottingham Poetry Festival 2018: Lions and Tigers and... Trees?

Words: LP Mills
Friday 27 April 2018
reading time: min, words

Oh my. We've had a great time observing this year's poetry festival from the shadows, but this Thursday it was our turn to hog the limelight. Under a web of fairy lights, MC and organiser Aly Stoneman and co showed off some of the best and brightest poetry we at LeftLion have to offer. 


"Check the mids!" came a call from the crowd as Aly Stoneman, LeftLion's poetry editor and avid eco-poet, struggled with microphone feedback. There's a brief scuttling as levels are checked and speakers are moved, and then the night begins. 

Organised in conjunction with the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, the WriteLion Poets event was themed around nature. You've most-likely seen the billboards and bus-stop ads for the trust's latest campaign, which blends words and phrases with the hope of creating a new way of looking at the world around us, and Thursday's event saw young writers and poets collaborating with LeftLion to bring these words to life. Plenty of talk of Opportunitrees and Yardows began the night as the Wildlife Trust's representatives took to the stage, their poems advocating the peaceful merger of the natural and urban world. 

Up next we had Martin Stannard, recent returnee from China whose poetry, whilst not strictly related to nature, still evoked a sense of place and time with subtle hints to the world beyond the windowpane. His final piece, a fifty-part questionnaire for poets, included thought-provoking queries such as "Are you riddled with self-doubt?" and "Are you sure?". 

Next up came the open-mic, introduced by yours truly and bringing together a lively ensemble of poets both seasoned and green (pun intended). Then, after a brief break, the featured poets took to the stage. 

First up was Hannah Cooper-Smithson, who was introduced through the lens of her daily studies linking the poetic form to the naturally-occurring geometric shapes and patterns one might notice when walking through a dense stretch of woodland. Suitably esoteric and distinctly magical, Cooper-Smithson's set was filled with references to the highly-visible but deeply-mysterious micro-ecosystems that form around fungal spores and tree-roots. A collection about disused nature-words, inspired by author and journalist Robert Macfarlane, acted as a delightful eulogy for the language of nature that has been lost through increased urbanisation. 

Finally we came to Jo Dixon, whose poetry touched upon themes far-and-wide. From sunny California to the grey and grainy Skegness, Dixon's work is rooted (again, pun intended) in the natural world. She explores beaches and coastlines with the intimacy of an expert in the field, and much of her poetry touches upon an affinity with whales and their oceanic fellows. One piece, a particularly grisly account involving the recent beaching of three whales around Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire, describes the grace and gravity of these giants whilst touching upon the sheer mass of viscera left in their wake. 

The night was then rounded up with a brief speech (and plug for the May issue of the magazine, which is itself nature-themed, naturally) from Aly before the various poets and audience members set about their evenings, having thoroughly celebrated the wild worlds that dwell in the spaces humanity has yet to inhabit. 

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