Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring into Poetry, London


Don Share signing a book

Me and Malika Booker

Our genial host talking to Emma Jones - & his wife
Malika Booker and Amy
Amy & Anne Stevenson

I'm just back from the reading at Oxfam Marylebone, last night. Phew what a sweat to get there in time: flight delayed into Gatwick, train to Victoria, tube to Russell Square, and up the stairs to the Penn Club, flung on my reading outfit and lippy, and into a cab to arrive, just before the main guests arrived. Talk about seat of the pants!

The readers were terrific: I really enjoyed the variety of voices. After I went first - which allowed me to chill out and relax (and stop sweating - sheesh, beginning to think there's something awry there!) - there was the gorgeous voice of Malika Booker. Her work is steeped in her Grenadian background, with a Caribbean lilt and she read very well. I bought her Breadfruit pamphlet later on, which I've already peeked into. Malika also made off with a copy of my 'Cattle Crush' poem, about cattle being castrated, which she is going to use to teach poetry to Year 8s - yay.

Closing the first half of the readers was Anne Stevenson: I watched this diminutive figure command the entire room with her wonderful reading. She gives each word its total and correct weight, without it seeming ponderous. I have her voice now in my head and am looking forward to re-reading her mammoth Collected Poems 1955 - 1995, which I brought over and asked her to sign for me. She said something very nice about my reading afterwards which I shall treasure: that she could 'hear where my lines ended.'

After a quick sup and a chat - hi to Chris Bazalgette, so nice to meet you after all the years corresponding on the Open University message boards - the second half kicked off with another prize-winning poet: Emma Jones, Dr Jones to me and you. An Australian by birth and accent, she read from her collection The Striped World, from Faber, which was a Forward Prize winner for Best First Collection in 2009. Very imaginative and surprising work, I shall be searching out her work.

Then came Jacquelyn Pope, from the US, whose work has a lovely measured pace and is quite beautiful in a really understated way. Her collection Watermark literally walked out the door afterwards - before I managed to get my hands on it - boo hoo. I was too busy talking to poets and audience members!

Lastly, came Don Share, also from Chicago in the US, whose warm, witty but poignant poems were a thoughtful point to end the evening on. I also got his collection Squandermania from Salt - and weirdly, when I got back to the hotel, the current book I'm reading, a history of the Irish state during the second world war, That Neutral Island, by Clair Wills had that very word on the following page I was reading, where Fine Gael were giving out about the 'political codology' the 'squandermania' of the idea of Ireland being able to defend itself during the war (p.90). Wow, I thought: isn't that cool!

Todd Swift could give a masterclass in the art of hosting and introducing poets: his tone is so relaxed it sounds conversational - very intimate and draws in the audience.

What a great evening - it seemed to be over far too soon, but I heard so much and came home with some lovely lines in my head.

11 comments:

Titus said...

Sounds like a great night, and brilliant photos!

Michael Farry said...

Well done Barbara!

Liz said...

Great rundown...shall eek out some of those Poets' work...and congrats!

BarbaraS said...

Thanks everyone, I really enjoyed it and it was worth making the effort :)

Rob said...

Well done, Barbara. Glad you got there in the end, and that it went really well.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks so much for posting all of this - and the links. I fully intend hearing you read your poems at some point!

BarbaraS said...

Rob, Rachel, thanks for the kind words. It was an experience I'll treasure, that's for sure!

Padhraig Nolan said...

Sounds excellent, well done you - lovely praise from Carson.

Dick said...

This was the closest I was ever going to get to the reading, Barbara, so thanks for the account. It sounds like a great reading with a good, buzzy aftermath too. Well done with the Anne Stevenson encounter. Words to hoard!

Dick said...

This was the closest I was ever going to get to the reading, Barbara, so thanks for the account. It sounds like a great reading with a good, buzzy aftermath too. Well done with the Anne Stevenson encounter. Words to hoard!

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

sounds like you had a great time