If I was to step out of my front door and leap in to the air and whilst doing so grow wings then I would almost certainly join the crows to see if they do, in fact, fly in straight lines. It would be quite easy to tell by simply watching the passing towns below; first there would be Hebden Bridge to my left and then over moorland towards Colne before dissecting the M6 at Kirby Lonsdale and coming into land at Windermere or possible Ambleside to avoid the tourists. I might, if feeling adventurous, carry on towards Scafell Pike but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m guessing it would take little less than an hour travelling at a constant speed and I would most definitely be home for tea. Regardless of all this, however, I still do not live in the North West.
Although, due to the Yorkshire watershed, I will never be a North Westerner, it was still a pleasure to hop over to Hebden Bridge (albeit by car) last week for the launch of the new poetry anthology, Sculpted. Described as the poetry of the North West, Sculpted is a collection of poems by sixty two of the NW best contemporary poets and to prove it, six of those poets crammed in to the sell out (yes, sell out) launch on a wet and windy Thursday evening.
Hosted by Hebden’s very own independent book shop, The Book Case, the line up included readings from J.T. Welsch, Andrew Oldham, Melissa Lee-Houghton and John Siddique. Also adding to the impressive line-up were the book’s editors, Angela Topping and Lindsey Holland.
J.T. (I don’t know and didn’t dare ask) opened the show and for me was the surprise hit of the event. There’s not a hint of red squirrels in his poem, Formby which he opened with and immediately mesmerised the audience into silence. Buy the book for this one poem alone and read it out loud in your best American accent to fully appreciate the playful use of language and imagery. And if you’re familiar with Formby, you or the kids won’t be disappointed by the lack of squirrels.
Angela Topping’s The Visited brought back some wonderful memories of being dragged around to people’s houses by my mother and very simply just popping in for a cuppa. This was something that just happened, and whilst mums would be knocking on the neighbours it was just as likely that the neighbours would be offering the courtesy of three knocks on our own door before tramping in and plonking themselves down at the kitchen table. Imagine Facebook in real life and you’re somewhere near.
John Siddique was the last to read and it was a joy to finally hear him in the right environment. The last time I saw John was in a busy Waterstones in Bradford where he battled against the piped pop hits of the day and where the manager had very kindly provided only three seats for the audience. You may not be surprised that there was only one shelf of poetry, tucked away at the back of the shop with a fantastic collection of Larkin, Duffy and Shakespeare (sales, however, were down).
John began by reading his contribution to the anthology, I Think of You in which he tenderly uses the sense of a place, this being ‘Spring Wood’ at Hardcastle Crags to recall a lost love. After several poems from earlier books, John ended the evening with poems from Full Blood. His moving introduction that recounted the horrors witnessed in Woolwich earlier made the poem, Thirst particularly thought provoking and, in many ways, healing. http://www.johnsiddique.co.uk
Many a fine wine was drunk throughout the evening and it was a joy to meet so many wonderful poets and supporters of poetry in one swoop. The continued absence of wings meant that I could only watch the wine being soaked so eventually bid farewell and joined the one road out.
Lying next to John, in an editorial sense, in the anthology is a new poem from the very hard working, Kim Moore. Being Married retains the same voice that created many of the poems in her wonderful, prize winning pamphlet, If We Could Speak Like Wolves. I’ve been a fan of Kim’s poetry since reading some of her work through The Poetry Business but refrained from buying a pamphlet as I’ve been trying to catch her live at one of her many readings – it seems that Kim could also possibly do with a set of wings after following her adventures on the blog. Sadly work commitments have led me astray so it was a nice coincidence that together with last week’s Sunday Poem, Kim announced the arrival of a PayPal button on her site. Without further ado, the button was pressed and two days later the pamphlet arrived, signed and with a thank you note. Find out more at http://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com
Also on the reading list this week is Gillian Allnutt’s How the Bicycle Shone, Garry Ely’s Angel Visits and, courtesy of the PBS, Michael Symmons Roberts’ Drysalter. You may not see me for a while.
Musically, the Heavy Rotation award this week goes to The National with their new release, Trouble Will Find Me. What, with the lack of wings and everything, it’s been on constant play in the car which is a good thing as with any The National release, several plays bring gifts from music heaven. As a taster, here’s the opener which will very soon be taken its leave from the Halls and probably flying into a digitally sundrenched North Western sky.