Richard Skinner’s excellent Vanguard Readings at The Bear in Camberwell generally hosts both poets and prose writers, but last night was a poetry special. Somehow I managed to arrived only just in time, but I’m pleased I did as the first reader was my friend Josephine Corcoran.
Josephine’s first pamphlet is ‘The Misplaced House’, out from tall-lighthouse at the end of this month and I think it’s going to be a corker (no pun intended… well, maybe). Reading first (or last!) isn’t always easy but Josephine did a fine job. She was followed by Josephine Dickinson, a poet who I’m not familiar with, but I enjoyed the sense of magic she created in the room and and felt I wanted to know more about her and her work. All the way from Alston in Cumbria, a place I know (and I know how far it is from anywhere), an impressive way to come to entertain the Vanguard audience.
The final first-half reader was no less than Michael Symmons Roberts, reading mostly from his amazing book Drysalter which won last year’s Forward Poetry Prize and Costa Book Award as well as being shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. It was a shame that Michael had to leave for his train back to Manchester as I’d like to have spoken to him. I liked his reading style and was fascinated to know more about how he went about writing Drysalter, 150 poems each 15 lines long, over 5 years.
In the second half I moved down the front and consequently the photos are a bit less fuzzy, although I seem to have captured some shut-eye moments in the readers – sorr-eee! Not only did we hear from Matt Merritt, legendary blogger and the official bird watching poet – great to meet him at last – but also Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton who I last saw performing flamenco in Swindon. In Matt’s reading I particularly enjoyed the poems from his ‘unpronounceable’ collection hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica from Nine Arches Press. Good thing it’s available to buy online, as I’m not sure I’d be able to ask for it in our local bookshop.
When Cristina took to the floor she commanded it as usual, petite as she it, her personality is ginormous and she recited two of her long poems, entirely from memory, with electricity and panache. Very hard to take one’s eyes off her! The final reader of the evening was our host Richard Skinner who read three poems from the first anthology from Vanguard Editions, by poets who couldn’t be present – the last of which was by Marion Tracy, from her excellent pamphlet The Giant in the Doorway (HappenStance). Richard gave Marion an amazing introduction and announced her to be ‘one of the least well known poets around but one of the best’. Are you listening, Marion?! Hope so!
It’s always nice to put faces to names at these events, and I was very pleased to meet for the first time blogger poet Clarissa Aykroyd, and to chat with her on the bus back towards Victoria about the various merits of Vancouver vs London and knowing someone from Kamloops.