(In)frequently Asked Questions

Symposium audience

Why is it called a ‘Symposium’?

Mostly because I think it is a good word. The event should be a meeting of poets, as well as a series of readings. Another reason is that poetry presses have been invited to come: it should be more than ‘just’ readings. The meeting of poets, publishers and people who wish to buy each others’ books (and some people will be all three of these things) is what I want to encourage. Also, if the event carries on running I wanted it to have a name that made it sound different from other events. Another reason is that a possible future feature of the event might be open discussions about poetry publishing, the relative health of poetry in Cumbria, and other things.

How are the ‘Featured Writers’ chosen?

Some are excellent writers from the area. Some are writers from outside of Carlisle, but inside an area that you might call ‘the north’. This is to encourage communication between writers in what is a vast geographical area. There are some excellent hubs of poetry activity in Cumbria that don’t always get the chance to meet together, read together and support each other. Sometimes it was writers whose chapbooks or collections I had read and wanted to hear more of their work. Occasionally it is writers that I have come across online. More recently, writers and small presses have been approached – and I have been overwhelmed by their generosity and support. I am particularly grateful to Southlight magazine who came very early to a Symposium, along with Caldew Press; that gave the event its first connection to the presses. Over time I have been very fortunate that presses such as Corbel Stone Press, Wayleave Press and Longbarrow Press have all responded so positively and generously to this fledgling event.

You might feel motivated to make your own event and chose your own writers. That, also, is the point of this event: to encourage other people to do likewise. I was partly motivated to create this event by the work of Vivien Jones (here) and Kim Moore (e.g. The Kendal Poetry Festival, here) – both of whom have run events that I have been to that are designed to build networks of poets / writers. Some of the ‘Featured Writers’ are travelling for several hours to get here, some from as far as Sheffield. Some from as far as London for the day!

Can anyone sell their books at the pop-up bookshop? Can I sell mine?

Yes. That’s the point. That is a crucial point. For several years, at Borderlines, Mike Smith set up a pop-up bookshop and encouraged anyone to sell their books at it. I thought this was such a good idea. One year, Mike and a coalition of the willing set up in a well-known bookshop in Carlisle and had readings, too. I thought: what a great idea. I remember reading at an event back in 2007 (ish…) in Selkirk at the launch of Both Sides of Hadrian’s Wall; in that wonderful, sprawling afternoon of poetry readings the side tables of the room became laden with magazines and pamphlets that I had no idea existed. Call it optimism, but I think that if you gather the right people together, they can have the right conversations, and get things moving in interesting directions. All the money from each sale goes to you – at the end of the day, when all the slips of paper (see the actual Symposium page, here) are counted up by the pop-up bookshop team.

The whole idea of the Symposium is to promote the poetry and the poets of Carlisle/Cumbria and to provide a link between the open mic element of Carlisle/Cumbria to wider poets, to poetry presses, and poetry on the page, too. It is essential that people understand that the pop-up bookshop is designed to sell ANYONE’S work: your work, if you’d like that opportunity.

Can I read at the event?

Yes. That’s the point. Again. That is a crucial point. Again. I would like to emphasise that (a) the open mic element is the very lifeblood of the event and (b) the whole idea of the Symposium is to celebrate our poetry. There are (in the current itinerary) 20 open mic slots; these are up for grabs on the day itself: you just have to sign up by being there. The Phil & Lit has been very kind to lend us the room. And there is no charge. Come and listen to some poetry, read some of your own poetry, and buy some poetry.

Why do the open mic readers only get four minutes?

At open mic events up and down the land, this is a standard time allowed. Some of those events you have to pay money to read at, for four minutes. At the brilliant Verbalise nights in Kendal (here) – which are hosted by the excellent Ann Grant (here) the time limit is three minutes – and that’s purely open mic. But please stick to the time limit: if in doubt read one great thing!

Who will staff the pop-up bookshop?

Mike Smith will be running the pop-up bookshop assisted by a team of volunteers and they are doing it for the love of literature. If you’d like to lend a hand at the pop-up bookshop, please get in touch through the Phil & Lit.

Why has the event moved?

We ran out of room! We loved the Phil & Lit. We loved hosting the event there. I will miss the tea urn’s contributions to live poetry, even! We’re hugely thankful to Darren and Becca (at the Phil & Lit) because they are continuing their support of us, even as we grow and move. We have an event that is popular. Great. But we also need an event that is accessible for all. We’re very lucky that Tullie House have been so helpful – we hope this is the beginning of the next chapter. So: more space. More bookshops to pop-up (yes! more!), more space for people to peruse the bookshop(s). And… access to the cafe!

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