I’ve always thought that Wendy Klein was one of my favourite Americans but at the Keystone on 7th November, I was disabused of that idea – she read her great poem, “Renouncing”, about giving up her American citizenship to become British. So she’s simply one of my favourite poets now.
Elegant, gracious, charismatic and smiling that generous smile of hers, Wendy came to read to us last Monday directly from a family visit to Edinburgh, arrived early with her “roadie” husband Stephen, and charmed an audience that included fourteen open mic readers. Her new collection, Mood Indigo (Oversteps Books) was the basis of a varied set that took in early as well as recent poems.
She began with one of our favourites, Red Toenails in April, a poem that gives hope to all women over forty, and continued with poems about her father (“the most self-centred man I’ve known – and I’ve known a few – but charming!”) that are typically warm, embracing and forgiving of human foibles. I particularly loved Dancing with My Father and Seen from Below in her reading , and there are lots more wonderfully perceptive memories of their relationship, in Wendy’s new collection.
Another theme in Wendy’s work is the family and the mother’s role as home- maker. Her two poems on the theme of “the table” as a significant object are excellent examples of Wendy’s respect for poetry based on personal memories, family and autobiography. She can handle her themes without sentimentality or mawkishness, a skilled user of poetic means, and keep up a conversational tone that makes you feel she's talking just to you..
Not that Wendy doesn’t “do” political as well. She has poems about racial segregation, and about historical war crimes (The Way They Danced at Zalongo is a poignant story). And poems about other places and cultures, all suffused with her unique blend of sharp observation, humanity, sensuality and often a huge sense of fun.
Three years ago, Wendy Klein chose to change her nationality legally, to British. Listening to Renouncing I understood what she had renounced, in terms of her personal family history, and was glad that this citizen of the world has opted to join our small corner of it officially.
Here’s a fifteen-minute segment of Wendy Klein’s generous 30 minute set.
The open mic - fourteen readers!
Richard Hawtree surprised us by suddenly agreeing to perform a poem – absolutely brilliantly. I wish I’d had the video camera switched on for that performance! His performance inspired a poem by Dónall - you can read it on our poems page, here.
Karen Izod read new poems from the collection she is putting together from her Welsh and Scottish writing retreats.
Next month, on 5th December, we have Raymond as our featured poet - same time, same place: 7.30 - 10 pm at
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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.