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.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring, Sprong, Sprung

The clocks go forward tonight, giving that extra hour of daylight and making everyone all summery again. It's about time, I've been waking up so early in the mornings, because of the angle of the sun being that little bit higher, and I've been paying close attention to the daffodils that I planted in the garden last autumn - I hadn't any bulbs planted in the garden, and it's nice to watch them growing, from the green budding tips to the blowsy yellow trumpets that sway in the wind, announcing that SPRING IS HERE!

I'm back from France, which was a really interesting trip away. While the ceremony and burial were poignant, the French way of carrying out these rituals was very interesting to observe - so dignified and respectful, and yes even elegant - so French! I've also met a whole load of new relations, cousins two and three times removed, and there are some interesting times ahead as we will all forge new connections through the children in families on both sides. I reckon that my lot now have a very valid reason to pay more attention in their French classes at school, and hopefully we will see some exchanges happen between the families, over the coming years. It's all about family in the long run :¬)

So, it's back to normal, until Wednesday when I fly to London to take part in that exciting poetry reading in the wonderful bookshop at Oxfam Marylebone. Anne Stevenson has an extra long slot, so I can't wait to hear her wonderful poetry in person, as well as the others which include Malika Booker, Emma Jones, Jacquelyn Pope, and Don Share. Busy, busy, busy! Now, back to the garden to make the most of this fine spell we're having.

Friday, March 18, 2011

That London Reading

I was supposed to be going to Prague next week, wiv' the hub, but family commitments mean going to France to a funeral instead. I'll be helping to lay to rest the last direct French connection we have: a Gran-aunt, who was just six months shy of her 100th birthday. She slipped away quietly ... always a very modest and unassuming, but hugely supportive person.

But I'm still up for the end of month reading in London, at the Oxfam Bookshop, Marylebone. Details as follows:

Wednesday 30th March

Anne Stevenson
Barbara Smith
Don Share
Emma Jones
Jacquelyn Pope
Malika Booker

7.30 pm
91 Marylebone High Street
London W1
Nearest tube Baker Street

Admision: £5; concession £3.

Hosted by Todd Swift

ALL PROFITS TO OXFAM - Make sure to book the tickets if you're coming!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

International Wimmin's Day

We have a whole day to ourselves - and where does it start? On the first day of lent, Ash Wednesday!

In our house there's lots of talk of giving things up - but funnily enough it's things that people don't like anyway. One of the nearly-wimmin of the house said 'I'm giving up smoking and drinking for lent.' I replied that she didn't smoke or drink anyway, and she said that made it all the easier.

One of the mini-wimmin here said she was giving up broccoli, to which I said that she didn't like it anyway, so not much hardship there either. You have to hand it to them for thinking outside the box - whose children are they anyway..?

It's not like years ago, when you gave up your sweeties and saved them in a tin until Easter Sunday - with a quick detour on St. Patrick's Day, yum yum.

Anyway, later on I am teaching a Leaving Cert class the finer points of creating a character, so I'm having fun in my own writerly way on IWD. How about you, anything exciting? Drop a note in the comments and let us know!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Prufrocks in Dublin

The Prufrocks read again, this time in Dublin on Saturday 5th at 8pm in La Catedral Studios. The last time some of us read together, was at Flatlake, back in August 2009. We had a bigger reading crew that time, and a very full tent (Cillian Murphy was there - swoon). This time we are three: Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Mary Mullen and my good self.

Mary is from Alaska, originally and her poems are often set there, which makes them interesting and haunting in their own right. Mary has a book out from Salmon, Zephyr, which I can't wait to hear poems from. Mary is also a successful memoirist, and takes classes teaching people how to write memoir.

Nuala, from Dublin originally, now living in Galway county, is an award-winning writer of many years standing. A fiction writer, as well as poet, her debut novel You, launched last year and is still getting good notices. She has a collection, The Juno Charm, forthcoming from Salmon Poetry later this year.

So, if you're round and about in Dublin at the Book Festival, do drop over to La Catedral Studios 7/11 Saint Augustine Street Dublin 8 on Saturday at 8pm. We promise not to disappoint!