Stephen Boyce spoke of his pride at being asked to represent Hampshire poets and his happiness at being part of an event that was helping to ‘put poetry on the map in Winchester’. There was certainly an excitement in the room as Stephen shared work from his book Desire Lines and the manuscript for a forthcoming work entitled The Sisyphus Dog. The first poem was a gorgeous elegy to a now-gone era written after a photograph of the poet’s mother taken by the poet’s father. Stephen then moved between new and older poems reading in a calm, assured, manner that set the audience at ease and complimented his clear-eyed work perfectly.
The second poet of the evening was Annie Freud who read from her book The Mirabelles (shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize in 2010). She started with ‘Squid Sonnet’ a poem written after an encounter with a squid at Kimmeridge in Dorset. She then moved through the book reading work that celebrated a number of important people in the poets life. As an aside Freud mused ‘there’s an awful lot of mothers and fathers in this book. They all died; I had to do something’ which was an apt illustration of the memorial aspect in The Mirabelles and the images Freud employs often in her work.
The penultimate reader was Daljit Nagra who read from his brilliantly titled, Tippoo Sultan’s Incredible White-Man-Eating-Tiger-Toy-Machine!!!, and from his debut Look We Have Coming To Dover! I’m always struck by the energy that Daljit brings to his readings and this event was no exception with poems including the sound effects of radio and exploring masculinity at different stages in life. Nagra finished his set by reading the prologue from his forthcoming version of the epic Ramayana, a copy of which he had received in the post earlier in the day and was very happy to be reading from in public for the first time.
David Harsent closed the night’s proceedings with a poised and beautifully modulated reading from a new sequence published recently by Rack Press and poems from his latest collection Night. There was a certain kind of listening going on in the audience (there were gasps behind me as particular lines registered) that reminded me of what I enjoy most about hearing poets read their work: it gives you a sense of how a line sits in the air, and how it works in the mind of the poet.
Next stop, Oldham Library!