I am a member of a group of poets who used to meet in a room above a pub called the Lansdown once a month. We would have a drink and share a poem each, offering it up for others to give it a helping hand towards the light. We would take turns to read our poems to each other and then scribble down any helpful thoughts and suggested amendments. Sometimes we might fight our poem’s corner, explaining why we thought we might leave a line just as it was when we read it. In winter it was often chilly in that room but it was always convivial. On a summer’s evening, it was a pleasant walk to get there and nice to share a thirst-quenching pint with others.
Thanks to Covid-19, we now find ourselves meeting online instead. I am never chilly in the little room where I sit to meet with them. It is a cosy room and I have, in any case, a lovely blue and white blanket for my knees if I get cold. I am not sure I could have taken that with me to the room above the Lansdown. I log on to the group via a link sent by one of the other participants. There are the inevitable glitches of connection or netiquette. People sometimes speaking over each other, quite by accident because the cues are difficult to read on a screen full of faces. Sometimes we raise our hand when we wish to comment on a poem. A pamphlet we published on the theme of Asylum that was to launch at a real life event, went live in a couple of virtual readings instead. Things are different, then, than IRL (“in real life”) but the atmosphere at our workshops remains convivial and there is still the poetry. (And also the opportunity to donate to Bristol Refugee Rights if you wish, which was the charity our pamphlet was to raise funds for.)
Something that also happened last year, perhaps encouraged by our new circumstances, was the evolution of a website for the results of our monthly workshops. That website went live this month, a wonderful start to the year for the Lansdown Poets, and something uplifting to share in a week of otherwise quite difficult news. If you’d like to visit it and see some of our poems, you will find it here: Lansdown Poets.