Thursday 15 March 2012

Poems for Dickens

Northern Launch of
Our Mutual Friend: Poems for Charles Dickens
at The Portico Library and Newsroom
Acclaimed poets recite new work to celebrate Dickens’ 200th birthday Wednesday 28th March – 6.30 to 

On the 28th March renowned poets are gathering at the Portico Library in Manchester for the Northern launch of an anthology of new poems that celebrates the life of Charles Dickens in his bicentennial year.

Edited by Peter Robinson, Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Reading, A Mutual Friend: Poems for Charles Dickens contains work prompted by incidents from his life, the characters and plots of his novels, or their afterlife in other arts and cultural memory. 

Several of the anthology’s contributors, including Ian Duhig, Jon Glover, Derryn Rees Jones, Mairi MacInnes, Carol Rumens, Susan Utting and Jeffrey Wainwright will read their poems in the glorious surroundings of The Portico Library and Newsroom. Professor Robinson said: “The anthology includes contributions from more than fifty poets of national and international standing, their work offering a series of intimate glimpses into Dickens’ place in the current poetic imagination.”

The anthology is beautifully designed in the best traditions of Two Rivers Press and the front cover is an illustration by Martin Andrews, formerly of the University of Reading’s Department of Typography.  It depicts the Mechanics Institute, Reading, now the Great Expectations Hotel & Bar, where Dickens himself visited and read and the site of the book’s “Southern” launch on February 12th.

The Portico Library was opened in 1806 by a group of Manchester’s emerging reading public some 50 years before the advent of free libraries in the United Kingdom.  At a time when reading was being seen as a pleasurable rather than a doctrinal experience works of fiction, including poetry, were increasingly collected and read. Charles Dickens was an obvious selection and his visits to the Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute consolidated him as a favourite author in Manchester. The celebrated Elizabeth Gaskell was one of the regular contributors to Dickens’ Household Tales and the wife of The Portico’s chairman of 35 years, Unitarian minister, The Reverend William Gaskell. Since 1985 The Portico has been proud to pay homage to the literary traditions of the North of England in its biennial Portico Prize for Literature (running this year) and will take its own part in honouring Charles Dickens’ Bicentenary with an exhibition of his works and life - Children and Childhood in the life and works of Charles Dickens - during June and July. Updates will be made available on our website and on the evening of the launch of Our Mutual Friend.

Tickets including wine and nibbles at £7 each are available from The Portico Library by post, (The Portico Library, 57 Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3HY), by telephone (0161-236 6785) and by email (

Copies of the anthology are priced at £10 and are expected to be available on the evening.

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