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Exit, pursued by a Bear

Um, no, I’m not referring to my previous post which generated a large amount of correspondence – although none of it in the comments, funnily enough! – mostly sympathetic. No indeed, but more an excuse to use one of my favourite lines from Shakespeare. The tenuous link is to the Vanguard Readings which take place at The Bear on Camberwell New Road (geddit??), and which I finally got to last night after many months of ticking the ‘Maybe’ box on the Facebook invitations.

My friend Lucy is that rare creature – a poetry supporter but not a poet. We once turned up casually late at the Betsey Trotwood, then caused a minor scene, so this time we were determined to get a seat and behave ourselves. As it happened we were the first in the room, something I seem to be making a habit of lately.

James Wood & David Ogunmuyiwa at the Vanguard Readings June 2014
James Wood & David Ogunmuyiwa
Martin Malone & Joanna Walsh at the Vanguard Readings June 2014
Martin Malone & Joanna Walsh

We heard prose readings from David Ogunmuyiwa, Joanna Walsh and Nicci Cloke, and poetry from Paul Ebbs, Martin Malone (fresh from the recent/aforementioned Interpreter’s House launch) and James Wood, flown in from Toronto. Incidentally, Joanna is running a Twitter hashtag campaign #readwomen2014 in an effort get people reading more fiction by women. Interesting idea.

It was a great night with plenty of variety and a fair bit of refreshingly non-toe-curling sex (in the poetry). I’ve never quite cracked the poetry sex thing – I think I have a fear of it either sliding into farce a la Frankie Howerd, or else someone coming across some steamy verse when I’m in my dotage and thinking eeeuw! you mean that old lady wrote this? As Lucy put it, it’s the tattoo thing. How will it look when you’re ninety? Hmm…anyway, I digress.

The monthly Vanguard Readings are run very efficiently by the charming and unflappable Richard Skinner and generally feature a mix of poetry and prose. The formula is six readers, three before the break, three after, each reader getting ten minutes or so. It’s free to attend and last night there were about 40 people in the audience, but judging from photos on the FB page it can sometimes be standing room only. No open mic, and even with the vagaries of Southern Rail and the notorious ‘black hole’ of no trains to Lewes between 9.47 and 10.47 I was home by midnight. Result!

I’m sure I’ll be there again in November to hear an all-poet line up, including the wonderful Josephine Corcoran reading from her forthcoming tall-lighthouse pamphlet. You can keep up with what’s on via the Vanguard Readings Facebook Page.

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Robin Houghton 2021