On November 14th. members of the SPC attended a poetry reading which was one of a series presented by Jill Abrams. The series is known as ‘Stablemates.’ and each event features conversation and poetry with three poets from one publisher. On this occasion the event was held at Waterstones, Gower Street, and the poets were Mark Doty, Andrew McMillan and Fiona Benson of Jonathon Cape. Coincidentally the Poetry Editor of Cape, poet Robin Robertson, was up for the Goldsmith’s Prize of £10.000 for his verse novel ‘The Long Take.’ During the second part of the evening it was announced that he had won the prize.
Jill Abram had taken the opportunity to book the American poet Mark Doty for this event as he was passing through London at this time. Described by poet Ruth Padel as ‘a poet of glow’ Mark lived up to his reputation as he read some new poems straight from his laptop. He was the first American to win to win the TS Eliot prize and his latest collection with Cape is ‘Deep Lane’
Andrew McMillan made a stunning debut with his collection ‘Physical’ which won the Guardian first book award beside other honours. Writing in Guardian Review, McMillan explained that all he ever hoped for his poetry was that it should ‘live sincerely in the world and take everything that happened, turn it, distil it, and give it back to the reader – in the hopes it might move them, or be ‘useful’. His second collection ‘Playtime’ was published in August.
Fiona Benson read from her upcoming collection ‘Vertigo and Ghost’. Her previous work has been shortlisted for both TS Eliot and Forward prizes. She read some powerful poems from her Zeus sequence about Zeus as a serial rapist, for whom woman are prey and sex is weaponised.
Come and join Christine and Jane for a fun afternoon of Poetry and Prosecco.
In this session we were reading from the work of three contemporary female poets –
Helen Dunmore ( another loss to poetry as she died in June 2017) Alice Oswald, who won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2002 and Pascale Petit who had four of her seven collections shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.
I think it’s fair to say this was fairly new territory for many of our members who had to go to some lengths to obtain their poems. It was therefore specially helpful to hear something about them from research done by Ann Barlow. By far the majority of the poems read were by Helen Dunmore who was also a novelist.
Although our last meeting of the Summer was on July 10th. our activities did not cease there. Mavis Robinson hosted a very enjoyable afternoon of Free Choice poetry on August 7th. at her flat, attended by as many as Mavis could fit in. On a hot day, the ice cream was very welcome!
Anne Stewart ran an all day event for writers of poetry at The Daylight Inn, Petts Wood. This proved to be popular. We were looking particularly at Structure in poetry and during the day managed to write limericks, haiku, concrete poems, poems in which we assumed an identity and a longer poem on an object which our neighbour had provided. Thanks to Anne’s skill and enthusiasm we all came away exhilarated.
“A Perfect Day’ An Anthology of Poems by The Dorchester Poets.
This small anthology of poems was sent to us by Maggie Hoyle who has remained a member of the SPC although she now lives in Dorset. In Dorset Maggie and her husband belong to the Thomas Hardy Poetry Group which meets at Hardy’s former home in Dorchester to read his poetry and learn more about him. As several members wrote poems of their own they sometimes took the opportunity to read these, though the main focus was always on poems by Hardy and related writers and themes.
This group continues but another group was formed called the Dorchester Poets where poems could be shared and discussed at greater length at The Old Tea House in Dorchester. The anthology contains several of the group’s poems but came about as a celebration of the life of Keir Francis, one of its founder members and a great guide and inspiration to others. Sadly, Keir died of cancer and the group wished to honour him by publishing some of his poems together with those by his friends and fellow poets in a spirit of remembrance.
Keir was obviously multi-talented and Julian Nangle’s elegy hails him as ‘poet, sculptor, teacher, artist, photographer. friend/ creative polymath right to the end’ Keir is remembered directly
in a poem by Geraldine Farrow called ‘Keir At Max Gate.’ in which Keir reads a poem he has written called ‘The Empty Chair’ which turns out to be pertinent both to Hardy and himself.
It is interesting to get the flavour of the poems and the experiences behind them , the hopefulness and observation of Susan Walpole’s ‘ A Good Day is Coming to Pass’, the emotion of Faysal
Mikdadi’s poem ‘Aleppo.’ Every poet has something to offer and Keir must have known many of their poems well.
Keir’s own poems are a pleasure to read, ‘tight’ and well- wrought. They convey the essence of the man, being in turns humorous, celebratory and poignant, especially his poem ‘Stages Of Separation.’ The editors have chosen well and it is a fit memorial.
This was our last meeting of the term and the theme was “ Home Sweet Home’ and ‘’Heirlooms.’
Anne Stooke managed to come up with two poems that mentioned ‘house’ in the title: ‘The House’ by Robert Minhinnick and ‘My House’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. There were two poems entitled Heirloom(s), one by Kathleen Raine and the other by Amy Grant. and it was manifest how much feeling and personal history can be expressed through an object, in for instance, ‘The Table’ by Maurice Riordan and ‘Grandfather’s Watch’ by UA Fanthorpe.
There were no duplications although one member feared that there would be when she read ‘I remember, I remember’ by Thomas Hood. It was a theme that seemed to resonate with members who between them read an interesting collection of poem
Matthew Arnold and John Masefield
After Ann Barlow had provided some information about our featured poets the readings began with 15 poems by John Masefield including ‘Cargoes’ ’Sea Fever’ and ‘Trade Winds’ and 15 poems by Matthew Arnold including ‘Dover Beach’ ‘Youth’s Agitations’ together with excerpts from his longer poems ‘The Scholar Gipsy’ and ‘Sohrab Rustum.’