What better way to occupy my mind prior to tomorrow’s hip replacement surgery than writing this blog post. Indeed, that was one of the reasons I took myself off to Sheffield yesterday, for the first PB Reading Day.
The morning train out of Leicester wasn’t very full and I spent the whole hour gazing out at the urban-rural-urban scene-shifting and scribbling away in my notebook (in response Jo Bell’s write-a-poem-a-week initiative, ’52.’)
I counted 26 of us, including Peter and Ann Sansom, as they kicked off this pilot day of poetry close readings, discussion and group exercises, with Carol Ann Duffy’s Prayer. Although I knew this one, I have to admit to encountering many of the day’s poems for the first time.
Everyone had been asked to bring along copies of a 20th or 21st century poem they really liked. As well as exploring several of these, the morning session also included a group jigsaw exercise involving a cut-up of an Ezra Pound haiku, and a paired exercise: suggesting a title and an end rhyme (both hidden) for a D H Lawrence poem – Green, as it turned out. (Food for thought, as I’m currently pondering how well my chosen titles serve the poems I intend including in my forthcoming pamphlet).
After lunch, we split into two smaller groups. I’d intended joining the group reconvening in the PB offices over at Bank Street Arts, but my hip was bearing up quite satisfactorily on the wonderfully comfortable chairs in the Premier Inn’s conference room. 16 poems in a little over 2 hours was going some, but I think we managed to do them justice, more or less.
My favourites of the day? The aforementioned Prayer (not least for its ‘gift’ of ‘the minims sung by a tree’), Plath’s Morning Song (for its imagery and surprising choice of words), Helen Dunmore’s City Lilacs (for finding beauty in ‘cracked-haunted alleys,’ wheelie bins and motorway roundabouts), Dannie Abse’s Not Adlestrop (made me smile), David Constantine’s ‘Figures on the silver’ (I can picture the dog with ‘Ben Gunn’s demented eyes,’ the ‘balding mangy ball’) – and my contribution, Manhunt by Simon Armitage (one of those poems I like more with each re-reading: quiet poem, from the female viewpoint, speaks volumes).
It was lovely to catch up with Rachel Davies and David Borrott who I met on a poetry residential in Cumbria last February, and to share news and writerly chat with Maria Taylor over lunch and the return rail journey.
A worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable day. More favourites added to my Poems By Others folder. Further poetry purchases – at attendees’ discount-on-the-day of 40%:
Mission accomplished, see you on the other side!