Saturday, 21 March 2015

'Let The Poet Choose'

Royal Literary Fund
It was the second public event for RLF (Royal Literary Fund) Brum on Thursday night once more held in the Birmingham and Midland Institute.
          This time the evening was given over to three of the many poets the RLF can field - by name, Duncan Forbes, who acted as host, Judy Brown and Cliff Yates.
          I already knew Duncan slightly, because I was his 'mentor' when he was the RLF Fellow at Worcester. So I expected him to be gentle and charming, and he was, introducing his fellow poets and leading the applause, and reading his own work last.

          Duncan told us of a now revered anthology of poetry published in 1973: 'Let The Poet Choose.' Each poet chose the work that they felt represented them best - and explained why the work was special to them, and why they chose it.

        So Cliff told us about how a poem had stemmed partly from a robber's attempt on his hat, partly from Stravinsky's 'A Soldier's Tale' and partly from John Cage's 4'33.
          This was Cliff's poem, 'Tonight in Kidderminster.'


begins under streetlights and their word is Speed.
Two of them, chewing gum with their mouths open,
thumbs in their pockets and feet tapping.
The tall one sees me first, sees the hat. This hat
goes with the hair, the desert boots and jeans,
the shabby raincoat and ripped gold lining..

To read the rest, follow the link to Cliff's site and scroll down. (I don't like to post someone else's work in full here.)
           Judy Brown said it was difficult to trace exactly where a poem came from as 'a poem gobbles up whatever it needs.'
           She read us, The Cheese Room - and one of the things that this poem gobbled up, she said, was having lunch with her mother in this restaurant...

The Cheese Room

Here it is, on the back of the menu.
How, instead of a pudding, an extra fiver
will buy you the choice of the Cheese Room.
It shines in the corner, a treasury,
the moony glow of the cheeses walled round
with glass. As soon as she sees it, she's lost.
Before anyone spots her, she strips,
soaks a sari in buttermilk, wraps herself up
and goes in...
To read the rest, follow this link to the Guardian, where it appeared as 'poem of the week.' 

      Duncan almost apologised for being 'a formalist.' He read us La Brea, inspired by the La Brea tar-pit, where an ancient lake holds the bones of hundreds of animals that were trapped and drowned in the tar. It's an elegy for prehistoric dead.


I am the tarred and feathered stork
Who flapped its limbs until they stuck.

I am a tapir ancestor
Who came for water, swallowed tar.

This is the asphalt killing-ground,
A lake that thirsts. Beware. Be warned.

His trunk a blowhole out of reach,
A mammoth trumpets liquid pitch...

As before, follow this link to Duncan's website, and the rest of the poem.

          After the readings, were were able to talk to the poets, congratulate them, ask questions - and catch up with other friends in the audience. And drink wine.

          There are other public events coming up from the RLF.

          April 16th, A panel of writers - Jane Bingham, Mike Harris and Susan Price, discuss Research.

          May 14th, Francis Byrnes and Amanda Whittington - experienced radio writers - discuss 'Writing For Voices.'

          June 11th - Debjani Chatterjee, Jane Bingham and Susan Price, read and discuss their short stories.

          July 9th - Cliff Yates, Louise Page and Jane Rogers, all experienced teachers of creative writing, discuss the question, Can Creative Writing Actually Be Taught?

1 comment:

Joan Lennon said...

Great poems - excellent events!