Devon (in case you didn’t know it already) is really quite a poetic frontwater. Poetry goes on in many places and I’ve been blessed to be at three of them in a short space of time. The new Featured Writer for instance is Richard Thomas whose book The Strangest Thank you is published by Cultured Llama. I met the poet and his wonderfully offbeat poems for the first time at Exeter Uncut last week. His poems seem to start in the very ordinary (nappies, for example!) but then spun out into the unworldly and surreal with often lyrical imagery dovetailed neatly into the conversational-sounding lines. His reading style is also unusual and mesmerising. You can read a review here http://kettleandyarn.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/review-the-strangest-thankyou-richard-thomas/ He was being guest poet with Rose Cook with her new book, News from a Bright Field (Cultured Llama). Rose started by saying how happy it made her that people were so ready to spend an evening with poetry and I thought this very touching. That was what I wanted to say about all these events. Rose’s website is full of lovely things http://rosecook.wordpress.com/ and she has already been a Featured Writer. (perhaps I’d better ask her back again!)
The first event of the first Teignmouth Poetry Festival brought together Jennie Osborne, Graham Burchell, Ian Chamberlain and Brian Patten. The first three were brilliant enough for an evening out and we heard astonishing variety of poems from all three… Ian’s last poem about reading Brian Patten’s poems in the bath (part only of which I quote) nicely introduced the man himself.
I pulled the plug and wrapped myself
in Brian Pattens’ truth
his dread, his shouts and whispers
words not spoken.
Ah – the words not spoken fitted perfectly.
I prowled for paper, pen,
intending that for old times’ sake I’d write…
there was nothing left to write
nothing left to say
he hadn’t said.’
And Brian Patten being there that night made it just incredible: funny, wise, poignant and full of joie de vivre. Do you remember poems like A Blade of Grass and the Ministry for Exams, The Geography Teacher? You can find them all on www.brianpatten.co.uk/
Anyway, lots of other great things happened at Teignmouth Poetry Festival including Andy Brown and Roselle Angwin (both of whom I sadly missed) and apparently it’s going to be on next year. http://www.poetryteignmouth.com/ Each month they hold poetry gatherings to read from and discuss different poets at the Oyster Catcher Café. Next one is Dylan Thomas on April 14th.
Earlier there’d been the launch of Alasdair Patterson’s new book elsewhere or thereabouts from Shearsman. It seems to have taken up residence beside my bed. Those Liverpudliadad poems namely penny lane and sefton park, and another section about a woman who introduced herself as ‘famous Russian poet’, about Babuschkas in cascading boots, about planes landing in Siberia where vodka ’flows thick and oily’ are still ringing in my head even weeks later. This is the last verse of Recall:
But you – serial revenant
my blurred commissar
of the abandoned plan –
heres’ your false smile coming
through, coming through again
and snapshot after snapshot
haunted from the shutter-click
by this ectoplasm, heart-ache.
This book seems less experimental and more personal than others of his books (I confess to finding some of his books a wee bit abstruse, sorry Alasdair for saying that). It was a wonderful poetry evening with Rachel McCarthy, Gemma Green and Liz Cox all in great form. And the added joy of being in the quaint Devon and Exeter Institute on Cathedral Close in Exeter in their comfortable armchairs and walls with books-to- the- ceilings.
And there you have it: a small snapshot of poetry in Devon.