It was a privilege to have Maggie Sawkins as a guest reader at the Bar Des Arts on Tuesday 19th May, reading the whole of her series of poems “Zones of Avoidance”. As a multimedia presentation this piece won the Ted Hughes Prize in 2014. We didn’t need the multimedia. Maggie read quietly, her matter-of-fact, understated delivery underlining the intensely moving quality of her account of what a mother experiences when she loses her daughter to addiction and her grandchild, born in these traumatic circumstances, to adoption.
Rachael Clyne, our second guest reader, took us to the Soho of the Seventies, Ronnie Scott’s jazz club where as a young actress she worked. Then, in contrast, to tamed landscape that at first sight is wild, in poems that she wrote in the Highlands of Scotland.
Originally from Lancashire, now living in Glastonbury, Rachael paid homage to the culture of the Earth Goddess in poems about birds and animals. In “Toadsong” she meditates on her Jewish heritage.
When she shape-shifts into “Crow” she glories in the ruthless strength of the “corbie eye”, almost we expected her to take flight: “Allus fly straight/the crow way”; “air spin / me / swim me / ffflap soarrr”
Both “Toadsong” and “Crow” were published last year in her latest collection, “Singing at the Bone Tree” (Indigo Dreams) and are republished in our Keystone Anthology (to be launched on June 8th). Her recent poem about aging as a cyclical affair is cynical and humorous, and it’s one of my favourites. Rachael's website is here.
Dónall introduced the night with four poems, or perhaps three and three-quarters, as his memory was Hijacked by a Beautiful Girl. He enlisted the brave and willing help of Alex Twyman as model to give us an anatomy lesson as he explained the erotic possibilities of the Popliteal Fossa. Then he passed on some gardening tips in “The Nurture of Culture” and finally, disguised as Llanod Yespmed, took off on a trip to another planet.
Alex Twyman was first up to the open mic, shocked, he remarked, by the prospect of reading stone sober. He proved to need no White Russian to prompt him as he wrestled with flies in his tea, upset his cat, and outlined the troubles of God on the Dole.
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Janice & Dónall Dempsey
We are poets, writers, spoken word performers, editors and organisers of spoken word events, based in the United Kingdom.