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Faber Social: Sam Riviere, Joe Dunthorne, Luke Wright, Ruth Padel

It was a arts-studenty sort of scene last night at the Faber Social in London: a narrow basement room, concrete floor, a sweaty mix of music and conversation growing in volume, a parade of pretty, thin girls in dresses with cinched waists, ponytails and fifties make-up and fresh-looking lads with pale skins and serious glasses. 80% of the audience was probably under 26, judging by the slightly nonplussed reaction to poems about fatherhood and childcare by someone who looked like a student himself (Luke Wright). Meanwhile Ruth Padel held court on a table with various bright young things. Fascinating to watch the milling and mixing.

Luke Wright is very funny. As well as compering, he performed the last set and pulled the audience along with the sheer pace and energy of his poems – ‘The Drunk Train’ on its slow stagger back to Essex on a Saturday night, Wright’s imagined showdown with a sadistic French cop ‘Jean Claude Gendarme’ – fantastic.

Before Luke we’d had a set from Ruth Padel, who seemed slightly out of place in this company but the audience was quiet and respectful (a sure sign this was a serious poetry event, I guess). She read from a new work ‘The Mara Crossing’. I confess I struggled to engage with all the poems – they were quite long and dealt with big issues of migration, human rights and the environment, and Padel’s voice is warm but slight.

The performer whose name had attracted me to the event was Sam Riviere, whose 81 Austerities I love, or rather I should say I found compelling, even though some of the poems were actually repellant.  Interestingly enough, his ‘double act’ last night with Joe Dunthorne was based on the theme ‘Battle’ and was concocted around the idea of two people meeting to collaborate on a poetic work, hating each other but at the same time not being able to let go.

The whole thing was brilliant. I took some video snippets but the visuals were just backs of heads, so here’s a 30 second audio extract of Joe Dunthorne reading, an imagined scene which refers to the fact that Sam Riviere’s poems have no punctuation or capitalisation…

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Robin Houghton 2021
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