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Puzzle Poets Twentieth Year

A wonderful woman called Jill, known more generally as SpaceCat, being an afficianado of the Puzzle Hall Inn and its broad spectrum of musical events, which at the time included a weekly Jazz lineup of national significance, decided to push the boundaries of culture a little further, and announced the start of a Poetry night. The year was 1994, and it was a cold and starry night when along with a number of other hopeful versifiers, I took my folder into the Puzzle Hall Inn, not sure what to expect.
What I found was a warm welcome, and a small group of writers and poetry lovers, with a wide range of skills and ambitions. Jill herself plays music and dances a great deal, and studies languages, and works full time for the local council. But she loves poetry, and put herself out to encourage all those who came to read their work confidently and share their ideas.
Twenty years later the Puzzle Poets Live is still going. Last night was packed out. I had to sneak some stools from the other bar before the chess club arrived to make sure most of our visitors were seated.
What has changed in twenty years?
We now have a thick red curtain to damp down the enthusiastic conversation in the other bar, and we now have a guest for the first session, after which we still have an open mic, which can roll well into the deep of the night. Last night we had 18 poets reading. I know the crowd had been attracted by the Guest, the wonderful Genevieve Walsh whose fame reaches far and wide, but every month we have been growing our audience. Whatever we do it is very popular.
Poetry has been up and down in twenty years. Performance poetry and open mic fluctuates in and out of fashion, and it is on the up at the moment.
What attracts people to read and to listen to others at open mic events?
I think it is the sheer humanity of sitting listening to the thoughts in other peoples heads, spoken aloud by a fellow human being. Interesting thoughts, well expressed, is a very basic definition of poetry.

Whatever drives it, I love the Puzzle Poetry nights. I feel it is a community I belong to, and that first Monday of every month becomes a place that feels both safe and adventurous at the same time.
What more could anyone ask?
Tue, 6 Jan 2015 03:42 pm
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Thanks for this very interesting read, Freda. A key word for me in your piece is "community". Interesting that you've seen good and bad times over 20 years, and reckon that open mic is on the up at the moment. Long may that continue!
Wed, 7 Jan 2015 03:54 pm
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succinctly put, Freda:
...the sheer humanity of sitting listening to the thoughts in other peoples heads, spoken aloud by a fellow human being. Interesting thoughts, well expressed, is a very basic definition of poetry.

That is it, the essence, of an open mic poetry event. And, in the light of recent events in Paris, being able to do so without fear of condemnation or worse.

Long live the sharing of well expressed thoughts at Puzzle Poets.
Fri, 9 Jan 2015 01:04 am
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It is easy to understand the "buzz" obtained
from performing one's work "live" before an
audience, especially when making a visible
connection. Also, to sit back and enjoy the
words of others and "compare notes". The pub
has been a justly successful venue for these
communal gatherings: remember how music/singing goes down so well in such places. The spoken
word seems a highly logical complimentary art
Thu, 29 Jan 2015 03:02 pm
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Hurrah, the Puzzle Poets enter their 21st year very soon.
Hope to see you all in Sowerby Bridge on Jan 4th, Monday 7.30 for a brilliant evening.
Mon, 28 Dec 2015 08:16 pm
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I have found the Puzzle Poets to be the most welcome, exciting mixture of poets and poetry that I have had the pleasure of attending. I have been living in the local area for four years, and started going in August 2013 when the guest poet was none other than John Foggin - now one of the organizers of the night. I shall never forget his deft, acutely observed and chillingly beautiful poems, and how the evening served up one after another fantastic poet. I try to get to as many Puzzle Poets as possible and it has been one of the key steps for me in developing the confidence to read my own work. Some of the highlights for me include that first experience, late 214 when we almost all seemed to be reading bird poems, Genevieve Walsh's guest poet slot in Jan '15, Steve Nash with his legendary "Hutch" poem, and the recent appearance by Keith Hutson who read from his forthcoming collection about 1950's musical hall and variety stars. The guest poets are always superbly introduced by Bob Horne, whose own readings are also a privilege to hear, while Freda's closing readings (sometimes featuring poems of hers written years ago, bringing those time periods to life, and sometimes consisting of aptly chosen poems by others) are always a thought-provoking and satisfying finale. Happy 21ST, Puzzle Poets - I look forward to joining you for many more adventures in poetry, and to being present for any birthday bash.

Tue, 5 Jan 2016 08:00 pm
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So much has changed since this thread was started, but the Puzzle Poets march onward.
For several years John Foggin and Bob Horne have compered, orchestrated and brewed the wonderful nights, as we survived the closure of the Puzzle Hall Inn, noisy nights upstairs at the very welcoming Blind Pig, some interesting months at the Shepherd's Rest, and then the ancient chamber of the Navigation, where one could easily believe Branwell Bronte was about to take the mic and share his words.
Now the reign of Bob the Brod and the Great Fogginzo is coming to a close. We had a sudden unexpected closure in November, our first cancelled night, if my memory is correct. But the Muse of the Puzzle is hovering close. The Navigation Inn was barely closed for a fortnight before it sprang open again and Puzzle Poets was welcomed back for Monday Dec 2nd by the new landlords.
John and Bob want to sit back and enjoy the poetry, and our appeals for new comperes has been successful.
From January the poetry night will be placed in new hands.
This will not alter the welcome you can expect, the encouragement you deserve and the applause we deliver to all who take up the Open Mic. Nor will it reduce the quality of the guest poets.
Roll on Monday. Hope to see you there.
Sat, 30 Nov 2019 07:55 pm
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This is heartening news, Freda. Long live the Puzzle Poets! Despite being a southerner, I've read there a couple of times, the latter occasion enjoying the honour of being the night's guest poet. It meant I got to sign a banner and find myself among some much more distinguished names. Many thanks to John and Bob for all their devoted work with the Puzzle Poets over the years ... and to you, too, Freda, for always keeping the Puzzle flag flying. The Navigation sounds a very interesting and historic venue, and I hope to get along there again some day.
Sun, 1 Dec 2019 07:46 am
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The Puzzle Poets has no live readings at present, in its twenty fifth year. However the new team of Steve Nash, Charlotte Wetton and Laura Potts, all distinguished poets themselves, rose nobly to the Covid19 occasion, and live readings have been organised online.
You can find out more at

The Navigation Inn did reopen after the initial lockdown, but an unfortunate incident with a car closed it again for a while. Live reading in the pub is not an option at the moment, but the community still surrounds us, online and in our valleys, so never fear we will be back.
Sun, 4 Oct 2020 12:46 pm
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All this was before the pandemic.
Bob and John handed on the baton to Steve Nash, Charlotte Wetton and Laura Potts, three well loved and published Yorkshire poets.

But on the very moment they were due to host their first Puzzle Poets live session Lockdown occurred.
From 2020 until the start of 2022 they did their best to keep the flag flying. There were some online readings, and in the autumn of 2021 as we were released from restrictions somewhat, two live sessions took place, but locally poets were still keeping their heads down, and several more months passed.
Covid and other events have taken their toll.
Steve, Laura and Charlotte have moved on geographically and in their commitments and challenges, and have decided they must let go of the Puzzle Poets for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Puzzle Hall Community Pub has reopened, and its Events Committee asked us for Poetry.
Hayley Doherty had started a writing group at The Hollins, down the road from the Puzzle, and she agreed to run a Spoken Word night. Her writing group were keen to join in.
The first session was in February and the second is tomorrow, 22nd March 2022. Sessions start at 7pm.
WOL uses the term Open Mic, but to the Puzzle, which is mainly a music venue, this suggest music, so we prefer the term Spoken Word.
At the first session in February there were 25 present, and 15 read their work.
There are no plans for guest poets right now. This is a read around, and several in February were first time on the mic.

The other point to note is that following its refurbishment the Puzzle Hall is fully Accessible, and has a disabled toilet too.

So put the Fourth Tuesday of the month in your diaries, and come at the slightly earlier time of 7pm and read to us.
The plan is to hold this on the fourth Tuesday every month.
Mon, 21 Mar 2022 10:31 am
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Freda, this is wonderful news, that Puzzle Poets is back, both in terms of restarting and particularly doing so at, well, the Puzzle.

Initially, when Write Out Loud began organising events to encourage people to share their words with each other, I was calling it 'open floor', my template being the open floor folk club singarounds of the 60s and 70s, rather like the original notion of the ceilidhs where everyone had to do a turn, be it poem, song or play the spoons.

Long may Puzzle Poets progress!
Mon, 21 Mar 2022 06:28 pm
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This year is Puzzle Poets 30th year.
More change, in that Hayley has moved on, and the current hosts of our long running Poetry night are Peter and Freda. (yes, me).
We meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Don't be fooled by the notice that the Puzzle is closed on Tuesdays. This is just a temporary measure, and does not apply to the Fourth Tuesday when the poets and writers gather to share their thoughts.

Everybody welcome.
Fri, 23 Feb 2024 02:30 pm
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