Well, two day tickets, to be exact, if you count my Leicester-Sheffield return rail fare.
Another half term treat to myself, my £20 day ticket for Sat 1st June gained me entrance to all four headline events at The Hubs (which my defective inner sat nav failed to find from Google’s 3 minute walking directions, even though the distinctive space-pod-cum-kettle Student Union building is fairly prominent when you know what you’re looking for as you exit the station…).
Each event was a pairing of poets as follows:
River Wolton and Julia Copus
I enjoyed River Walton’s relaxed and confident introductions to her poems, chosen on the theme of uncertainty. These included ‘Everything I Know About War’, on the plight of refugees, from her Leap collection. She finished with a Specular poem, which form Julia Copus devised, apparently. Copus began her reading with ‘This is the Poem in Which I Have Not Left You,’ on the theme of wanting to change the past. She is not afraid to let her poems breathe in the silent space she allowed each at the end. I liked this. Her own specular, ‘Raymond at 60,’ about her father, preceded three poems from a sequence, ‘Ghosts,’ about longed-for parenthood.
Paul Batchelor and Jean Sprackland
Batchelor’s opening poem was ‘Keening,’ for the Northumbrian poet Barry Macsweeney. My favourites were ‘Seated Figure with Arms Raised,’ picking up on Walton’s theme of uncertainty; ‘To A Halver,’ an expansive litany about the good and the bad of rioting. You can read it here.
Jean Sprackland read the title poem and others from her forthcoming collection (Sept 2013), Sleeping Keys, about objects in an abandoned house.
James Caruth and Bernard O’Donoghue
Several echoes here. Their readings were my favourites of the day. Belfast-born Caruth read ‘The Deposition,’ which won the Sheffield Poetry Prize in 2011.The poem compares Caravaggio’s painting (The Deposition From the Cross) to the famous photograph of father Edward Daly on Bloody Sunday. His Poetry Business pamphlet, Marking the Lambs (which includes this poem) was my must-read on the journey back to Leicester. O’Donoghue, born in County Cork, describes himself as Manchester-Irish. His poem, ‘Tinker,’ echoed Caruth’s poem for Tommy MacCarthy. In another Caruth-O’Donoghue echo, ‘Vanishing Point’ takes as its subject an Observer newspaper photograph of a young, dead Afghan soldier in Nov 2001.
In the final break between events, I caught the setting sun’s reflected heat from the metal walls of the pods. Looking up, I could read Andrew Motion’s cliff poem on another Sheffield Hallam building.
Paula Cunningham and Gillian Clarke
For Cunningham, the 1999 Poetry Business competition winner, the evening saw the launch of her first collection, Heimlich’s Manoeuvre. A Belfast poet and part-time dentist, her childhood was dominated by her country’s significant border. In ‘Mother’s Pride,’ the slicing of bread is a metaphor for her divided Ireland. (Read it here in the Sheffield Poetry Festival issue of Antiphon). Gillian Clarke, the Welsh National Poet, is a real ambassador for the art and a treat to hear. Hotfoot from The Hay Festival (where I heard her read last year, the only warmth in a very cold, wet day). She opened with ‘an unplaceable poem,’ ‘Daughter,’ for the parents of April Jones. Then to her collection, Ice, shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize 2012. The opening poem, ‘Polar,’ about a bearskin rug, is one of Clarke’s earliest childhood memories. ‘Home For Christmas’ harnesses the Child within the Adult, the delight in snow.
Then, coffee and homemade carrot cake in The Showroom cinema bar opposite (at £3.25 for the two, it would have been rude not to), the short hop across the road to the station serving to underline my appalling sense of direction…