My second trip to Lichfield, this time to the cathedral’s Lady Chapel for back-to-back readings by two of my favourite poets:
Jo Shapcott opened with her series of Bee Poems inspired by spending time with a beekeeper. Her introduction to readings from her award-winning Of Mutability explained the choice of green for its Faber and Faber cover: the collection’s focus is on the green shoots (at least as much as the grim aspect) of change. Water versus solid matter matter, ideas about inner and outer body, imagined and real death are themes explored. And I now know the origin of her Piss Flowers, the collection’s closing poem. Shapcott’s quiet, unassuming demeanour drew her audience into this uncertain world.
Time for tea and scones (topped with jam, cream and strawberries – yum), free to ticket holders, over at The Chapter House cafe. Good to chat with some of the Lichfield Poets before we returned to the Lady Chapel for the morning’s second reading:
Jackie Kay: what a character! Every bit as colourful as her gorgeous coat, she certainly knows how to hold court (with some comments fit to make the resident saints and angels blush). She read by turns from her poetry collection Fiere, her memoir Red Dust Road and her short story collection Reality, Reality. Her use of the Scots vernacular serves to bring her poetry and short story characters to life. Fiere is the poetry companion to her moving account of the poet’s search for her birth parents. She read an extract describing her first meeting with her Nigerian birth father, and later, tellingly, the poem, Burying My African Father.
Before leaving, I took in Stephen Raw’s colourful banner, commissioned to commemorate last year’s 30th Lichfield Festival: a working of Carol Ann Duffy’s similarly-commissioned poem, A Lichfield History.