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Guest post: Dickman & Gray at the Poetry Cafe

Jo Grigg was at the Poetry cafe on Thursday for what sounds like an exciting evening! Many thanks to Jo for this guest post.

Matthew Dickman & Ann Gray

London’s Poetry café on a May evening, it feels like February. Then poet Ann Gray describes ‘a pale lake pulling at the throat of May’ and I think ‘yesss’. Reading her poem ‘Joy’ recently, commended in the National Poetry Comp 2010, was enough to bring me to her reading. The first two lines of ‘Joy’ go:

‘When I let the chickens out, I hurl mixed corn

in a golden arc across the frosted ground.’

It’s a ‘mother’ poem, among other things:

‘… A mother is a precious thing. I know that

now I’m sure to lose her……’

She reads a selection including a couple of poems based on her time as a nurse in a children’s’ cancer unit, something she rarely writes about. I liked both ‘her’ as performer and ‘her’ as wordsmith – the images, turns of phrase, along with some heavy subject matter, left me wanting more.

She’d travelled from Cornwall to introduce the (relatively) young American Matthew Dickman, telling us how, after reading his poem describing grief as a purple gorilla (did I hear right?) they began a correspondence five years ago and have only now met. It turns out to be a good combo; he’s funny, rude, perceptive. (He sends three spare pamphlets flying into the audience – did I hear ‘ouch!’ behind me?) Some of his poems felt a bit longwinded but where they hit home – such as a piece about his brother who committed suicide – they were powerful.

Ann writes lists (two poems listing flower names, one of what’s for breakfast at a Broadstairs B&B), Matthew says fxxx and asks how many in the audience are fellow drug users. Both of them throw things. As Ann Gray tells us in her poem of introduction, Matthew has ‘a widescreen cinema’ in his head. I’m not sure I’d go to all his movies but am glad I was at the UK premiere of this one. I’d go hear her any time.

Matthew Dickman, ‘an extraordinary young American from Portland, Oregon, who is fast being recognised as one of the most important and original new American voices.

Ann Gray is co-organiser of the Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival, which is on at the moment. You can read her poem ‘Joy’ on the Poetry Society website.


Photo of Matthew Dickman from

Photo of Ann Gray from


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Robin Houghton 2024