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Natural highs inspire Poet Laureate of the Peak

This is an archived press release

Thursday 6 October 2005

6 October 2005

Natural highs inspire Poet Laureate of the Peak

The new Poet Laureate of the Peak would spend every day, if he could, out in the countryside, drawing inspiration directly from nature.

For Alec Rapkin, 64, is an amateur naturalist who was announced as the area's first Poet Laureate on National Poetry Day (October 6) after a competition that drew national attention.

Living just outside the Peak District National Park, in the village of Cowers Lane, near Belper, he is a regular visitor to the wild places which have influenced his poems for 24 years.

"Natural history is one of my inspirations," he said, "I'm a member of the Derby Natural History Society and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, and I'm particularly keen on orchids, dragonflies and butterflies. Most days I'm out in the countryside - and I'm glad if my poems can convey to others something of the spirit of the Peak District."

Alec originated in Middlesex but has lived in Derbyshire for 35 years. Before early retirement he was a psychiatric social worker and family therapist, and is now a freelance proofreader. Married for 41 years to Ishbel, they have three grown-up children.

Alec has had two poetry collections published by Derbyshire’s Dragonheart Press, "Under Stone" and "Mr Darcy's Butterfly Collection", but would not have thought of entering the competition had it not been for the urging of fellow-members of the Belper Writers' Group. He also belongs to Derby City Poets and the Wirksworth Writers' Group.

"I really wasn't expecting to win," he said, "but I was very pleased - it is an honour."

The competition, organised by Arts in the Peak with support from the Peak District National Park Authority, was aimed at promoting contemporary poetry and raising awareness of the Peak District. It was limited to entrants who lived or worked in the area, or visited regularly, and attracted 46 entries. The post is for two years.

Charles Monkhouse, Arts in the Peak spokesman, said: "Arts in The Peak are delighted with the outcome, and will be working with the winner, Alec Rapkin, to promote poetry in general and his poetry in particular throughout the Peak District. The range and variety of poems was of great interest and we hope that people will enjoy reading them. We would particularly like to thank our judges, Professor Neil Roberts of Sheffield University, Rosemary Orders of the Derbyshire Library service and John Sewell, poet and heritage architect for the National Park Authority."

John Sewell said: "All three judges were impressed by the poet's sensitivity to place. One of his poems - Shrouded Tomb Effigies at Fenny Bentley - was immediately picked out as being outstanding."

A selection of the entries may be found on the websites www.peakdistrict.org or www.artsinthepeak.org.uk

This is an archived press release

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