Last Sunday, Sarah James, Angela Topping and I arrived at The Playhouse in Cheltenham to launch their pamphlet of poetry duets, Hearth. Although we had a small audience (the clash with Wenlock Poetry Festival no doubt decreasing numbers) they were a great audience. They listened to Sarah and Angela’s poetry reading with appreciation, and then afterwards the Q&A discussion about creative collaboration, motherhood and how to find time to write amidst busy family life was lively; in fact, we nearly ran over our allotted time slot!
As the publisher of Hearth (and as a reader for one of the parts of their collaborative poem, ‘Crow Lines’) I got one of the best seats in the house – right beside the poets. For me, it was brilliant to actually hear these poems being read by their creators. As the publisher, editor and typesetter I knew these poems well on the page, but when they were read they somehow flew and further life was breathed into them. And when I heard two of my favourite poems from the pamphlet, ‘The Washing Line’ by Sarah James and ‘Hooam’ by Angela Topping being read, I felt a tingle of magic running up and down my spine.
The Washing Line
The sister I never met hangs out my sheets,
pairs socks, dries my husband’s shirts
— sails smoothed towards the sun.
Sleeves brush against sleeves;
their unfleshed white flutters free.
Dropped pegs scatter on the grass.
I clip three together: a plastic family.
That’s Mum, Dad and me;
pinched tight without her.
She has polished the kitchen surface.
My unwashed potatoes
are peeled moons in her hands.
Her cheese soufflé rises from liquid velvet.
Always ready, the ghost of her absence
blurs my face from our photos.
Her dead baby lungs filled with water,
my chest aches where they buried her smile;
its sickle scrapes my ribs.
Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!
Me mam’s clatterin in ower kitchen
me dad’s at work. Am on me tod
playin in living room. Fire’s in.
Ah sit on floower, spread farms
on carpit, cows n pigs n sheds
all mine t’ rule ovver an all.
Now ah’m grown, owen haaus to rule ovver
me dad’s gone, so’s me mam.
Bring em back, yem days, gimme back
yon carpits, gawdy nick-knacks,
an brassoed stuff, fireplace an all.
Gimme dem days back, ‘ow it was
an me not seein it were passin.
After our event I was busy with our bookstall – all those in the audience came to buy a copy or two of Hearth, which was really lovely. Then, the poets for the next reading came in to set our their books and to mingle and chat. There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere – with many of the poets being firm friends and I must admit that I felt quite at home!
Sarah, Angela and myself then attended the next event – a reading by poets Adam Horovitz and David Morley. This was pretty packed, and I sensed a crackle of excitement in the air. Adam and David, very different poets, were absolutely riveting. And just as with Angela and Sarah’s reading, their poems seem to fly off the page and swirl around the room, coming to rest in the audience members’ hearts and minds.
I am absolutely convinced that anyone with an interest in poetry would love to come to an event like this. These poets showed me that poetry is very much alive and well, and absolutely itching to be discovered and shared.
After the event and packing up the bookstall, Angela, Sarah and I (as well as Angela’s lovely, supportive husband) enjoyed a pizza and talked more about poetry. All in all, it was a great day, and I am already looking forward to the next time I get to go out on a poetry ‘junket’!
We currently have a limited number of copies of Hearth (18 at the moment) that have been signed by Sarah and Angela in our online store. Do snap them up before they all go!
p.s. I’ve already got an eye out for another brilliant pair of poets to come together for another pamphlet of poetry duets. Please do check out the submissions if you’re interested. And if you’d like to suggest any pairings, please do leave a comment on this blog post. Thank you!