Chichester poetry evening inspired by Hounslow Heath

John Greening with Penelope Shuttle (credit Jane Greening)

John Greening with Penelope Shuttle (credit Jane Greening)

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Hounslow Heath, or Heathrow airport as it is now, is the shared inspiration for John Greening and Penelope Shuttle who combine to offer A Celebration of Poetry at Chichester’s Open Mic Poetry in Chichester Library on Thursday, March 23 at 7.30pm.

John and Penelope will read from their new collaboration, Heath. The poets were brought up on opposite sides of what was once the most dangerous area of England, Hounslow Heath, now the site of the airport.

“Penelope lives down in Cornwall, and I live in Cambridgeshire,” John says, “but I was reading down in Falmouth. I had written about Heathrow airport and the area around it, the old Hounslow Heath, an area of all sorts of legends, and Penny was brought up the other side of it. I said to her we should collaborate on something. I sent off some poems to her by email, and she sent some of her own poems to me. It became a real collaboration.

“We had all kinds of personal associations as well as the legends, like this was supposed to be the place where the last wolf in England was shot, the fact it was used for the original Ordnance Survey in the 18th century and Chamberlain took off for Munich from there. There are all kinds of things, and with the personal associations, they are all woven into our poems.”

The works came together in the collaborative anthology. Inevitably, part of the interest lies in their differing approaches.

“Mine are perhaps denser, more allusive. Penny’s are maybe easier to get at first reading. It is very difficult to stand back from your own poetry, but they are very much a duet, and it was a joy to write. They are interwoven with little mini poems like signposts on the heath. It was very satisfying to do. For Chichester, it will be like a scripted presentation. We take turns to read, and there will be lighter moments as well as the more intense moments.”

Penelope has published 12 poetry collections with a new collection from Bloodaxe, Will you walk a little faster? scheduled for 2017. Her work has been nominated for the Forward and TS Eliot poetry awards and is frequently broadcast on BBC radio and regularly anthologised.

John has received an award from the Society of Authors, a Hawthanden Fellowship and the Cholmondeley Award. He has published several poetry collections.

Live music from classical guitarist Linda Kelsall-Barnett will add to the entertainment. Readers and listeners are equally welcome. Tickets cost £5 (to include a glass of wine) and are available from Chichester Library, Tower Street, PO19 1QJ. 01243 777351. www.chichesterpoetry.simplesite.comA brand-new one-day choir festival makes its debut this year in Bognor Regis, with big plans to expand in the years ahead.

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