29th September 2016, The Swan Hotel, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire BA15 1LN
It was a richly diverse evening's poetry at Words & Ears on Thursday. My vaguely conceived notion that 'nature' would take centre stage (seeing as our guest poets Deborah Harvey and Kieron Winn are both known for their keen observations on the natural world) was wildly wide of the mark. Deborah set the tone - and raised the bar high - for the evening, with strong and moving poems from her new collection Breadcrumbs, which delivers work rooted both in myth and in the harsh realities of domestic abuse. They are, as Alyson Hallett has commented, 'important poems', made all the more unsettling and convincing by their understated calm. While many of them have an appropriately domestic setting, one, about Snowshill Manor - a National Trust property stocked with, among other things, 26 suits of Japanese Samurai armour - bottles a memorable essence of fear: 'I notice my shadow hunched,' says the speaker, 'clinging to my shoulder'.
Also guesting poeting for us was Kieron Winn, who instantly endeared himself to our large audience when, wrestling with his new glasses, said he was 'playing an older version of himself' for the evening. It was a version which made some interesting observations on man's manipulation of place - including about Mardale Green, the village in the Lake District which was flooded in the 1930s to raise the water level of the valley's lake to form a vast reservoir to serve Manchester. Kieron also gave us some finely observed poems about his parents. My Father's Things neatly echoes the title of his first collection, The Mortal Man - focussing very movingly on a last cigarette stub which remains, untouched, in the greenhouse after his father's death.
As is often the case at Words & Ears, these thought-provoking readings were echoed by powerful contributions from open mic readers, including a few curiously synchronous observations about 1970s schooldays. Peter, from the large contingent of students with us on the night, read an excellent piece of flash fiction; Ray, saying that his first-half poem was 'too happy', gave us, after the interval, another, on the 7/7 London bombings; and JJ Evendon took us to a mountain in Presceli and to thoughts on cancer in poems from his new book Apocalypse.