I had such a lovely day, yesterday. In the normal run of events I’m not a huge fan of birthday parties but this particular birthday bash was one I couldn’t resist.
The venue: The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
The vibe: relaxed, fun, informal
The flow: smooth, seamless
The pace: plenty of time for refreshments and mingling in poetry company
It was good to catch up with poetry folk I haven’t seen for some time and interesting to meet and talk to others for the first time. How lovely it was to meet face-to-face those I’ve only ‘met’ in the virtual world, not least among them Josephine Corcoran who also signed my copy of her collection, hot off the Nine Arches Press.
Of the two concurrent opening workshops, I opted for The Big Read-in with Jacqueline Saphra and Roz Goddard. (as you may know, I’m a huge fan). In conversation with Roz, Jacqueline provided some insights into, and read, several poems from All My Mad Mothers, an ‘unreliable memoir’ (her words). We were then invited to discuss the collection in groups (with a few suggested questions provided by Roz) before a Q & A conversation between readers and the poet. It was good, too, to hear comments (and praise) from one or two reading group attendees who said they wouldn’t normally choose to read poetry. Roz wrapped things up by inviting the circle to share their favourite lines from the collection. Poetry needs readers and I thought this read-in was such a refreshing approach.
Josephine Corcoran launched her collection, What Are You After, to a packed room, with special guest readings by Rishi Dastidar, Jackie Wills and Susannah Evans. I found Susannah’s apocalyptic poems really engaging (and funny, too; I love poems that make me laugh aloud) and I’ll be watching out for her forthcoming Nine Arches collection. Rishi and Susannah also paid tribute to Josephine’s online treasure trove that is And Other Poems by reading one of their poems published on the site.
I had my copy of What Are You After to hand for Josephine’s launch reading but found myself so drawn by the voice of the poet and the poems themselves that her book stayed on my lap (instead, it was my travel companion for the return train journey). Her poems have their feet planted firmly in everyday language; they are frank, funny, human, poignant. Afterwards, we were able to watch ‘Poem in which we hear the word ‘drone” as a film poem by Chaucer Cameron and Helen Dewbery of Elephant’s Footprint along with other poems from recent Nine Arches collections.
The party continued with buffet food, drinks, birthday cake and candles (yes, we did sing ‘Happy Birthday’)
before we re-assembled in the Jazz Club
for a party mixtape of favourite Nine Arches poems read by the various poets from ‘the family’ (Rishi’s words). It was a chance to hear poems I’ve enjoyed reading from my growing collection of Nine Arches Press collections.
Jane Commane thanked all those who have contributed to the growing success of NAP over the past ten years. Rishi, as co-compere for this part of the proceedings, paid tribute to Jane’s vision, innovation and hard work. In my opinion, she rightly deserves the standing ovation that followed.