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.