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Recital milestone for Carlisle Cathedral's Poet in Residence

The first ever Poet in Residence at Carlisle Cathedral is set to mark his year in post with a special recital of works.

Martyn Halsall, a former Guardian journalist, and Church of England communications adviser, was appointed to the position last year.

In the last 12 months Martyn has drafted nearly 70 poems, inspired by the building, its history, people, faith and contents.

Martyn explained: “In terms of subject matter, it’s provided a huge area to explore. It’s only as I reach the end of 12 months that I’ve realised I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.

“You have to follow your intuitions. Initially you essentially see a building, its monuments, its inscriptions and its art, and you participate in worship there.

“That’s one aspect of the language the Cathedral uses. But as you go on you begin to see the smaller details which can spark ideas into new poetry. That’s been the process for me.”

Martyn has also helped develop a poetry group which meets monthly at the Cathedral.

Up to 15 people attend the meetings, on the second Tuesday of the month and explore the works of different poets.

“I hope I have raised the profile of poetry within the life of the Cathedral,” Martyn added. “Perhaps I’ve got people to think about how poetry can be used within a Christian community.”

His work which has been praised by the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev’d Mark Boyling.

He said: “Martyn’s poetry has helped to open up the Cathedral’s rich history and continued importance of the building in the city to a new audience. For that we’re very grateful.”

Stepping down from the post means Martyn will not face a weekly trip to Carlisle from Santon Bridge where he now lives after his wife, Isobel’s, retirement as the parish priest in Bridekirk.

And even though his tenure ends next month he is optimistic that more of his poetry will be inspired by his work over the last year.

He said: “I would be very surprised if further poems did not emerge. The way that I find poetry works with me, and I with poetry, is that I often experience something so strong that poems continue to bubble out for many years afterwards.

“It’s been a huge luxury to be able to use the stimulus of the Cathedral in my work.

“It is almost like an encyclopedia in stone. There are so many subjects contained within it; its history, its people, its art, the faith and perhaps the doubt; the darkness and the light.”

Martyn will hand over the mantle of the Cathedral’s Poet in Residence to Cumbrian poet Geoff Smith. There are plans for the poetry group to continue.

It’s also hoped that a pamphlet containing some of Martyn’s work as Poet in Residence will be produced in coming months.

A recital of some of Martyn’s work will take place at a special event in Carlisle Cathedral on Tuesday 1 October from 12.30pm to 1.15pm.


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For further information please contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Officer, on 07984 927434 or at carlisledco@gmail.com.

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