As we are part of the local community and advertise our meetings on the Beckenham Forum website, it seemed a good idea to attend their party at the Friends Of Mine bar and restaurant Besides meeting residents, the local press and people who run small businesses, there was an editor in attendance, a novelist and a harpist who has played and composed music for events where Michael Longley and Seamus Heaney have read their poems.
As always, the highlight of our year when members and guests come to listen to two invited poets reading from their work, followed by a buffet tea and the opportunity to socialise.
The readings are held in the Music Room at Ripley Arts Centre usually with an audience of about forty and this year was no different. Our chosen poets were Christine Webb and Peter Phillips.
Christine’s two collections are ‘After Babel’ and “ Catching Your Breath,’ both published by Cinnamon Press. In answers to a Poets’ Survey in connection with last year’s Aldeburgh Festival Christine wrote. Once a poem is out in the world, there’s no predicting how it will be received and understood. Especially if it lives for a long time, its meaning is going to shift (whatever we mean by ‘meaning’!)
On this occasion her poems were very well received, chosen as they were from an eclectic range – astute, compassionate, humorous and poignant. One member who had forgotten the title of the book she ordered said, ‘It’s the one with the poem about placentas!’ Christine’s poems have been described as combining ‘intelligence, deep feeling and formal grace – the world is richer for them.’
Peter Phillips has several collections to his name and has been praised for his accessible and beautifully crafted poetry. Recently he has been writing a sequence of poems centred on flowers for a new collection. His last before that is “Oscar and I, Confessions Of A Minor Poet’ which chronicles the life of George Meadows, a full-time poet, in a series of scenes and dialogues which tell all. Peter read us a range of poems and both amused and moved us in turn.
Peter’s work has been very favourably reviewed in many quarters and we saw many facets of his craft in a very good reading which did full justice to his wit and humanity.
Both poets have communicated their pleasure at reading for us and praised what they felt was an attentive and receptive audience.
This event was organized by Harris Academy Beckenham who wanted to encourage participation from the community. As the whole event was to be a celebration of the written and spoken word we were contacted and agreed to fill two half hour slots with readings of a miscellany of poems ancient and modern, comic and serious.
For the first slot we decided on a theme of Words, and for the second we read poems that were connected in some way with Action. Maggie Hoyle was applied to for ideas and members of the team made a contribution. So, folders in hand, we entered the Creative Canopy and read, mainly to friends and relatives it must be said, competing at one stage with a singer and band in full spate just a tent wall away.
The interval between readings was spent tranquilly in Sheila and Brian Corrins’ garden but there was time to see a few of the many events that were going on and admire the quotation quilt, the Poe Tree and the Edible Book competition with its inventive entries. Fun, even though the logistics were not always in our favour and thanks to everyone for two great readings. Two members of the audience requested copies of UA Fanthorpe’s ‘Dear Mr Lee’ so seeds were sown.
The readers were Sheila Corrin, jane Knight, Keith Massey, Mavis Robinson, Ruth Smith and Anne Stewart.
Hannah Keyte, who is 13, won the prestigious Foyle Young Poets Of The Year Competition which is run by the Poetry Society. This is an international event with entries from 78 countries for poets aged between 11 and 17.
We offer hearty congratulations to Hannah whose poem ‘After Pied Beauty’
gained her the prize. If it can be arranged we hope she will be able to visit us and share some of her poems.