On Tuesday evening, September 5th, a live and a virtual audience were treated to some moving, amusing, profound and stimulating poetry by five members of the Nevada Street Poets group.
Apart from a few issues with the audio experienced by some members of the Zoom audience (a mystery for me why it happened this time, and to some and not others…), the evening was a thorough success. Jocelyn Page, Graham High, Sarah Westcott, Richard Meier and Lorraine Mariner read from their published collections and some poems that haven’t yet been published, touching on themes such as sport, parenting, ageing, death, children, nature and the environment – and as with all poetry, the themes didn’t mean that you could pigeonhole each poem into a particular category.
We also heard two poignant tributes marking two significant losses. Lorraine Mariner ended the first set by reading ‘The Otter’ by Seamus Heaney and Jocelyn Page ended the second set reading the poem ‘A Story about Water’ by the young award winning poet Gboyega Odubanjo, who lost his life tragically just over a week ago.
A big thank you to poet Wendy French who managed the Zoom side of things with grace and patience despite the sound problems. And as always a big thank you to Debra and staff at the wonderful West Greenwich Library for being so helpful, flexible and generous.
The event was recorded and it’s available for private perusal. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org for the link.
And here are short bios of the poets in alphabetical order…
Graham High is a widely published poet with eight chapbooks and collections to date. He is also involved with other forms of writing, including haiku and haibun and was President of the British Haiku Society for four years. Graham is also a painter and sculptor with exhibitions and commissions both in the UK and abroad, an Animatronic Model Designer in the Film Industry working on the effects of over 40 feature films since 1981 including ‘Aliens’, ‘The Golden Compass’, Labyrinth, Babe, The English Patient and the ‘Harry Potter’ series. He now shares his time between London and Norfolk where his sculpture studio is.
Lorraine Mariner lives in London and works at the National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre. She has published two collections with Picador, Furniture (2009) and There Will Be No More Nonsense (2014) and has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize twice, for Best Single Poem and Best First Collection, and for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize. Her most recent publication is the poetry chapbook, Anchorage with Grey Suit Editions (2020).
Richard Meier won the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize in 2010. He has published two collections with Picador: Search Party (2019) and Misadventure (2012), which was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh Prize.
Jocelyn Page, a poet from Connecticut living in London, has published in various journals including The Spectator, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg, South Carolina Review and Poetry Review. Her debut pamphlet, smithereens, was published in 2010 by tall lighthouse press and her 2016 You’ve Got to Wait Till the Man You Trust Says Go was the winner of the Goldsmiths’ Writer Centre’s inaugural Poetry Pamphlet award. She has held residencies at The Reach Climbing Centre in Woolwich and the 999 Club homeless centre. She teaches English and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College and the University of London Worldwide. http://www.jocelyn-page.com
Sarah Westcott’s first collection Slant Light (Pavilion Poetry), was highly commended in the Forward Prize. Her second collection, Bloom, also with Pavilion Poetry, was longlisted in the 2022 Laurel Prize for ecopoetry. Sarah was a journalist for twenty years and now works as a freelance writer, editor and tutor. Work has appeared on beermats, billboards and buses, baked into sourdough bread and installed in a nature reserve, triggered by footsteps. She is shortly starting a PhD in zoopoetics at the University of Birmingham.
June 17, 2023
‘Across the Line’ – launch of Jane Clarke’s and Maura Dooley’s new poetry collections
Thank you to all who attended in person and virtually on June 15, and a very big and special thank you to poet Wendy French, who managed the Zoom session splendidly, poet Sarah Westcott who stood by to liaise between Wendy and us at the Library, and as always to Debra and the Library staff, Katherine and David in particular, who are helpful and generous way beyond the call of duty.
A few members of the audience , both in person and on Zoom, asked me about a brief quotation I read at the end of this engaging, moving, lively and thoroughly enjoyable event, so here it is. It comes, appropriately, from a book called This is Happiness, by, also appropriately, the Irish author Niall Williams:
It seems to me the quality that makes any book, music, painting worthwhile is life, just that. Books, music, painting are not life, can never be as full, rich, complex, surprising or beautiful, but the best of them can catch an echo of that, can turn you back to look out the window, go out the door aware that you’ve been enriched, that you have been in the company of something alive that has caused you to realise once again how astonishing life is […]
Rarely more true than our experience of listening to these two beautiful, different and complementary voices. Nostalgia, loss and love – for Nature, family, the changing world. Never sentimental, often witty, even sharp and always word-perfect. The moment of anticipation before something changes, or starts (or doesn’t) was a common theme in both collections, A Change in the Air (Jane’s) and Five Fifty-Five (Maura’s) – both with Bloodaxe Books, 2023.
Too many times I have felt that poets rush a little while reading in front of an audience. It did not happen with Maura and Jane. We, the 50 or so in the audience at the Library and the 17 on Zoom, knew and appreciated that moment of anticipation, that short intake of breath before the next poem, and were richly rewarded.
It is hard to ‘review’ an evening of such profound, musical and thought provoking works, with perfect sense of place and time and so beautifully read.
A member of the audience sent me these lovely comments:
Jane Clarke and Maura Dooley shared their unique poetry in beautifully lyrical and musical tones that captured images and characters so well in one’s mind and imagination. The opportunity for Q&As was much appreciated and the poets’ reply over the best conditions for writing poetry … ‘carry a notebook to write down ideas and be aware of those snagging moments that prick the mind and can germinate into seeds for later poetic inspiration…’
If anyone would like to add their thoughts on the poems and the poets, do send them to email@example.com. I would love to add your words to mine… Thank you.
If you want to buy a signed copy of A Change in the Air or of Jane’s earlier collections please contact Jane Clarke directly, details on www.janeclarkepoetry.ie
For Maura’s Five Fifty-Five and many other collections you can contact her via M.Dooley@gold.ac.uk .
Jane Clarke is the author of two poetry collections, The River and When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe Books 2015 & 2019), as well as an illustrated chapbook, All the Way Home (Smith|Doorstop 2019), which she launched at West Greenwich Library in 2019, introduced by Blake Morrison. This book was her response to a collection of family letters and photographs held at the Mary Evans Picture Library in Blackheath. Her third collection, A Change in the Air is published by Bloodaxe Books in May 2023. Her Greenwich reading is the only in-person launch, and she is travelling from Ireland to be with us. Jane’s awards include the 2016 Hennessy Literary Award for Poetry and the 2022 Ireland Chair of Poetry Travel Award. The River was the first poetry book to be shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize in 2016 and When the Tree Falls was shortlisted for three Irish poetry prizes and longlisted for the Ondaatje Prize in 2020. She grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland and now lives with her wife in the uplands of Co. Wicklow. www.janeclarkepoetry.ie
Maura Dooley is a Professor of Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London and has directed the MA in Creative and Life Writing there since its inception. Maura’s family background in Ireland and Wales has long been central to her work. Kissing a Bone and her later collection Life Under Water, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation in 2008, were both shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her poem ‘Cleaning Jim Dine’s Heart’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2015, and was included in her collection, The Silvering (2016), also a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Maura’s most recent collection, published in April 2023, is Five Fifty-Five (Bloodaxe). Anthologies she has edited include The Honey Gatherers: Love Poems and How Novelists Work. Her translation (with Elhum Shakerifar) of the exiled Iranian poet Azita Ghahreman’s Negative of a Group Photograph (Farsi title: نگاتیو یک عکس دسته جمعی) was published by Bloodaxe Books with the Poetry Translation Centre in 2018. It received an English PEN Award and was shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2019. Maura is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Thursday December 7 at St Alfege Church Hall, Greenwich, 7-9pm
Launch of A Life in Verse, the collected works of Patrick Early (Our Glass Publishing, 2023).
I was delighted and touched to be asked by the Early family to help organise an evening to celebrate the publication of Patrick Early’s collected works, at the same time celebrating his amazing life and experiences. Patrick died nearly three years ago, leaving us a poetic record spanning many decades, inspired by a childhood under the British Raj through a working life in the overseas civil service and finally in Greenwich. Thanks to his wife Stephanie we can now enjoy his output, arranged thematically in a handsome volume. Copies of this and Patrick’s other published collection will be for sale at £10 and £5 respectively (cash only please).
During the evening there will be readings and a little music too – and plenty of refreshments (voluntary donations welcome).
The event is free. The Hall is fully accessible and is located opposite the main entrance to the beautiful St Alfege Church in Greenwich, across a patch of green. The nearest station is Cutty Sark DLR, and Greenwich mainland station (Southeastern and Thameslink) is only a few minutes away. Postcode SE10 9JT. Street parking nearby is free after 6.30.
If you can, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest – or just turn up!
Tuesday January 23 at West Greenwich Library, 7-9pm
Lest We Forget
To remember and honour the victims of all racial and ethnic hatred, we will be showing two extraordinary documentaries.
‘Surviving History: Portraits from Vilna’ is the work of Shivaun Woolfson and her film-maker sons, Daniel and Jesse. Shivaun will be there to introduce it. After an interval, Vesna Domany Hardy will introduce ‘Vesna’s Story’, a very poignant account of persecutions in the former Yugoslavia.
Watch this space for further information.
As always, the event is free. Voluntary donations for refreshment are welcome. Cash only please.