Hay 2019: Joseph Coelho

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Full of enthusiasm and fun, Joseph Coelho’s sessions are always an excellent way of spending time! Driving to the festival, I spotted Poetry Joe, standing on the bridge into Hay, enjoying the view of the river and all its beauty, so when he told us all how he loved nature, it came as no surprise!

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Having grown up in a block of flats in Roehampton, he told us that he was lucky because he was surrounded by nature, places where he and his friends could explore and play. Recognising how well-being, space and nature are linked, he now lives by the sea and continues to enjoy the outdoors. He drew on his memories and experiences when writing his book, ‘A Year of Nature Poems’, combining this with research.

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January’s poem was inspired by a legend of two warring murmurations of starlings. Having read the poem, Joseph then encouraged the audience to explore collective nouns and create their own. Stimulating creativity and valuing each response, those present were soon creating wonderful images as they were asked to combined their ideas and create sentences. The results were so imaginative and surprising!

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February’s frog poem stemmed from Joseph’s memories of gathering frog spawn and watching the tadpoles form in an old fish tank at home before returning the frogs to the wild. He emphasised the importance of leaving frog spawn alone now and not interfering with nature, but celebrated the joy of watching nature transform. Using their own frog-related memories, children from the audience created a collective poem, coming on stage to share their ideas.

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Jellyfish in July, scrumping in August and snow in December each inspired poems, language and playing with words. Everyone left filled with Poetry Joe’s enthusiasm for nature and poetry, each determined to capture the ideas they had created and play with poetry. A magical session from a magical poet!

A review of ‘A Year of Nature Poems’ will follow soon.