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Suffolk People: Talking to Dean Parkin, Poet

I read in an article recently that reading poetry can boost your mood and lift your spirits and having read some of Dean’s work, I can see how this could be true. Dean Parkin is a freelance poet who runs writing workshops for people of all ages, from small children in primary school, to the elderly, living in residential homes. He performs his own poetry too, which is hugely entertaining and he is the creative director of The Poetry Trust, which runs the annual Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. He also gets involved in various creative projects and is due to be involved in the Managing a Masterpiece project over the coming months.  He is one busy poet.

You’ve been given the rather wonderful title of ‘Poet of the Valley’, can you tell us a bit about that?

It’s all part ‘Managing a Masterpiece’ project, designed to celebrate the landscape and cultural heritage of the Stour Valley. Firstly I’ll be writing some poems inspired by the landscape, paintings and literature of the area. And then I’ll be working in schools in November – using the region’s unique art and culture as starting points for the students’ writing. I’ll also be judging a ‘Managing a Masterpiece’ poetry competition, compiling a booklet of the poems (including my own work alongside the competition winners) and devising some public events around the project in 2013. Something to really get my teeth into!

What sort of other projects do you like to be involved in?

I’m also poet-in-residence at the Beccles Festival this September and the aim is to come up with a Video Poem about the town. To do this, I’m working with groups of all ages and we’re also distributing a postcard locally, appealing for stories, memories and thoughts about Beccles. Then I’ll be editing it all down into one big poem. I like the fact that at this stage I have no idea how it will turn out!

Have you got a ‘funniest/most memorable moment’ relating to your work?

I was once interviewed by Mike Liggins for BBC’s Look East whilst sitting on a loo in Norwich Hospital. It was a report about an innovative project called The Poetry Treatment (organised by The Poetry Trust) to put poem posters on lavatory doors. As a result, I’m probably the first poet ever to appear on BBC1, reading a poem on the loo…

Dean Parkin

Is there a poem you could share with our readers?

This is a short poem – the encounter it describes actually took place on Aldeburgh beach.

Sweet Offer

Do you want a murray mint? I ask.

Not the best place, the beach, at night

in November, bracing you call it; wind

smattered with rain, as deep in my pocket

my fingers recover one of last summer’s

half-melted sweets. Further down the shore

you tell me what you thought I’d said:

Do you want to marry me? How I continued

It might be a bit sticky, and then

I’m not selling this to you, am I? as I fudged

in my jacket for the something I held out

and pressed into your palm.

Dean Parkin in action at Languard Fort, Felixstowe, Suffolk

What three things do you like most about living and working in Suffolk?

Big skies, open country roads (ideally with no tractors) and having the sea nearby (not to swim in, but for occasional walks beside!)

Where is your favourite place to eat in Suffolk?

The Café at The Cut in Halesworth. The Poetry Trust is based at The New Cut Arts Centre so I’m something of a regular there – the very creative team of Kim and Imogen (AKA The Sizzle Sisters) often come up with a ‘Dean Special’ which varies each time (but usually contains salad and some chorizo sausage) but always gets some jealous glances from other customers and my work colleagues. Just tell those ladies you know me and they might make you a ‘DS’ too (but keep it to yourself!).

Where is your favourite place to go for a walk?

The road to Covehithe. It’s why I like living where I do – from my front door I can hear the A12, so I can feel like one of those American poets who write about highways, but from my back door I can step out into the rural countryside. And although I haven’t written many nature poems to date, I recently bought myself a bicycle so I’m exploring all the little back roads and tracks more than ever and find they’re great places to come up with ideas…

The Poetry Trust, Aldeburgh, Suffolk Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

What is your favourite Suffolk event of the year and why?

The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival (2-4 November 2012). I first went as a punter in 1995 and it was the event that really got me into poetry. I remember thinking – this is amazing! Over two hundred people listening to the best poets from all over the world and it all takes place on my doorstep in sleepy Suffolk – I couldn’t believe my luck!

I started working for the Festival in 1999 and it’s been quite a journey. This November, after being at capacity in Aldeburgh for many years, we’re expanding the Festival to six wonderful venues on Aldeburgh Music’s Snape Maltings campus. But even with this big change of location, the listening experience and the weekend buzz – all those brilliant poets and poems – will be the same.

What’s your favourite Suffolk tipple?

Adnams Spindrift.

Most ‘fun fact’ about yourself?

When I was a younger man I entirely made up a local legend (whilst editing a book of local Suffolk tales and folklore) which can now be found in the ‘Penguin Book of Myth & Legend’.

Thought for the day/philosophy on life?

“That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they better be the right ones.” Raymond Carver

You can find out more about Dean and his work on his website. See his programme of upcoming performances.  If you have seen Dean in action and would like to leave a comment, please feel free to do so below.

To find out more about the community projects and events around the Stour Valley, please visit the Managing a Masterpiece project website (you can also subscribe to their e-newsletter).

You can also keep in touch by ‘liking’ us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

This is a community website and we welcome contributions from anyone who would like to write about Suffolk or leave comments about places they have visited. All you need to do is register  (just your name and email address) and then you can start writing!

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