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Michael also read his contribution to our 2017 Anthology, which is still available to buy from our website. Kinsugi is about the value of repairing anything, and the value that repairing it can bring to a broken object - or person.
Michael is an amateur archaeologist, and he has a section devoted to the topic in “The Age of Glass”. Meeting his Brothers in that section is one of my favourite poems in the book, where the archaeologist makes a direct emotional connection with the ancient human beings whose bodies he unearths:
‘…he asked their names./ /They refused to tell him, but listed things/they missed: shared football, play, school,/heartbreak, funerals…’
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Chrys Salt MBE was another very welcome guest poet. This was her first visit to the Keep, though we’ve been lucky enough to see her in Guildford in each of our previous two venues each year since 2013. She says she is a widely published and much–travelled poet, who happily reads and performs her poetry - a perfect description of her energetic, committed attitude to life.
With Chrys we visited the stink and decay of the ghats where the rich pay for cremation and the poor are released to rot in the River Ganges. We heard the voice of a young woman consigned to the flames of moksha after a miserable arranged marriage at fourteen, two miscarriages and death in childbirth. We listened to the discontented voice of a Victorian wife in the British Raj, complaining about the laziness and colour of her servants. And we heard the punkawallah, chosen for his deafness (which ensured his discretion) to pull hour upon hour on the rope of the fan in Sahib’s home.
The book contains a wonderful range of word-pictures and emotions, evoking not only pity for the poverty and (to Western eyes) injustice in the streets and homes of India, but the colours, perfumes, tastes and music of India, as in Saraswati. This god of poetry is worshipped with a celebration involving costumes in every tone and hue of yellow, gold, orange and amber, feasting, poetry and song: but then:
‘they box up all your finery/like Christmas decorations,/and throw you in the river -/…/Awfully unfair after all you’ve done for folk/on pages, minds and instruments./ /But there you are,/we haven’t treated our gods all that well/come to think of it.’
Such wry humour is one of Chrys Salt’s trademarks and a way to deal with the realities of life and death in India and Pakistan, without disrespect or trivialising.
“The Punkawallah’s Rope” is available from www.indigodreams.co.uk.
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Charlotte Harker, our third guest poet, is an artist as well as a writer, with a surreal and humorous cast of mind. Not for nothing has she been Artist in Residence at the Heath Robinson Museum (http://www.heathrobinson.org/museum) in Pinner, north-west London.
Charlotte’s deadpan style and absurd imagery had the room rocking with laughter. Starting with a statement by the International Woman of Misery and progressing via the Sentence Repair Centre to the Poetry Tour Diary she raised the laughter level with each poem she read. The ‘poetry tour’ had so many unexpected highlights – the main runway of Heathrow Airport in February; Stonehenge in June, when the local pagan grapevine causes the amassing of a huge crowd of Druids, and the poetic version of carol-singing in December, when only two out of twenty doors knocked upon were opened and of those one shouted that they only liked poetry that rhymed. We’re looking forward to publishing an illustrated book of Charlotte’s inspired lunacy!
Kyle McHale remembered sitting on Rocks out Front in a place where he’s no longer small enough to go. Do such places still exist somewhere, in some spirit world where his child-ghost may meet the ghost of the man he has become?
Marcus Belassie spoke volubly of The Glass Half Drunk and Archeoptryx. Lines that caught on the end of my note-taking pen – ‘I climb from your desktop fully formed’ and ‘Let me count the ways/you tell me No’. Marcus’s delivery of his poems is hypnotic!
Kitty Coles read from ‘Seal Wife’: Marsh Woman and the tale of The Rabbit Woman of Godalming.
"Seal Wife" is available at http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/kitty-coles/4593990487
Bob Milton remembered listening to J S Bach and celebrated the red-haired woman he once painted.
We welcomed Greg Freeman, back after a few months involved in other things than poetry (What, I hear you say, ARE there other things than poetry on the first Monday of the month?). He came back with a great poem for us – The Joy of Sex. Even swingers grow old (but surely never too old?)
Rochelle was back, too, with her slant look at middle-class suburban life. Windfalls was about more than apples, and the Privilege Lounge an Eden to be entered only by the wealthy who thereby attain the state of grace of knowing how they are envied by the hoi-polloi.
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Philip Lawder had everyone laughing with Bunion, Upper Street, Unexpected Item in the Check-out Queue, and from his book, ‘Edges’, The Toothpaste Conundrum. A new face at the Keep, and a very welcome one. His book is available at
Geoffrey Pimlott, back from wintering in Thailand, was looking fit and tanned and first read a poem by Thomas Thurman, who used to be a regular reader before he moved to the Manchester area. Geoffrey’s poem Life’s Womb was as surreal as ever, even after its severe editing, Memorable (and eminently comprehensible) phrase from Geoff – marooned by masculinity.
Lorri Pimlott brought Thai sunlight into the room, along with the noise and smells of Chiang Mai and the memory of midsummer English gardens. She also had ‘juvenilia’ to read: Bloomsbury Afternoon which was, as she promised us, a sweet poem.
Isabelle Kenyon told us about The Gorilla Girls and how On Growing Up she found that ‘I am my own family’. In a poem recalling her school days in Year 7, she celebrated Carol Ann Duffy reading at her school. (We were lucky enough to attend a similar reading by Duffy at George Abbott School recently.)
To complete the evening, as so often last (but never least) Andy B J Low read favourites from his love poems: Kisses and Two Heart Beating, reminders of our evenings at the Bar des Art, when we were ‘Pop Up Poetry’.