By Chloe Hanks
It is the most wonderful thing to be in presence of poets. Having attended many (if not all) of the Creative Writing Reading Series poetry events across my years at the University of Worcester, I am always proud to see each audience outgrow the last one. And to be amongst poets and those who love poetry is to be amongst those who love what I love. I had done my research for this evening and was looking forward to meeting Isabel Galleymore and Luke Kennard.
The lovely thing about this particular poetry event is the absence of hierarchy. Never have I met a professional poet any less interested to hear about my work as I am theirs. What adds to the welcoming environment of a Creative Writing reading series event is that keenness to chat, the delight in hanging around after the fact to say hello and express your love for the poems. That’s what makes it all so special.
The shining light is of course the poetry and starting off the evening on March 3rd 2020 was Isabel with her stunning book, Significant Other published by Carcanet, a captivating project exploring wildlife in its authenticity. A remark to make about both poets was how their deliverance of their poems brought to life their writing. Beginning with her poem, “Once,” Isabel gave a delicate, precise delivery that had the whole room silently aware. She carefully implemented storytelling, helping the audience grasp her inspiration and her message in keeping with the poignancy of the poetry. Telling us of her writer in residence position at an owl sanctuary, we learned about the tentative ratio between owls and humans and how this had an affect on their imprinting behaviours. Her poetry comes from such a foreign place in the sense of encapsulating an experience so few will have that it held the room in a state of intrigue; holding the potential to be both entertaining and educational. As we learned about her incredible residency in the Tambopata Research Centre in the Amazon rain forest, she delivered a sneak peek from an upcoming pamphlet, Cyanic Pollens published by Guillemot Press, that is highly anticipated.
Luke Kennard closed the performance section of the evening with a delightful collection of poems from different projects. Luke also had an element of storytelling to his performance, poking fun at his editor who was elated for the quality of paper and somewhat indifferent to the poems; joking of the exclusivity of the pamphlet, he commented “I could have not published it at all.” However, the audience was highly amused by this collection of work that exists in only 74 copies titled Mise en Abyme. Perhaps it was this exclusivity that made the work seem so exciting; although it was most likely the cleverness of a pamphlet that can turn real life into metaphor. His opening poem ‘Coffee Cup’ set the tone for his “reverent and energetic” performance that brought to life the comedic edge to his writing. The most audible reactions from the audience were for his poem about the so-called ‘grey rock method’ of making yourself purposefully dull to avoid attention. His passionate deliverance of these poems poking fun at different elements of humanity had the audience giggling behind fingers and added to the atmosphere of the room. The passion behind his stage presence appeared to come from his own connection with the poems as he warned us, “This is too weird to end on, no one would even clap!”
The most invaluable element of the Reading Series events is the question and answer section, allowing the poets to discuss their craft as well as the milestones that led them to write. We discussed the thematic elements of writing a poetry collection with an audience member asking if they began writing with a specific theme in mind. Luke responded that a theme often emerges during the writing process, describing his pamphlet responding to Shakespeare’s sonnets as a “pallet cleanser” between other projects. Isabel commented that she realised she had written a ‘concept collection’ after the fact, having remarked that she would never write one because they can get repetitive. This prompted the question, “How do you avoid writing repetitive poems if you have established a theme?” Luke offered the advice to explore form and strive for ways to bend and break formal constraints to avoid regurgitating the same poems. With a considerable section of the audience being creative writing students if not poets, these pieces of advice are extremely useful. Isabel also suggests that playing around with pronouns and settings can breathe new life into your subject matter if you find yourself settling into a comfort zone.
This particular instalment of the poetry events at the Hive in Worcester breathed a new life into the legacy. With the ever building sense of community arising from each performance, I am excited to see where the evening takes itself, establishing a roundtable of poets who love nothing more than to love poetry.
You can follow Chloe’s work HERE.