Yesterday I went to the launch of two of the latest HappenStance publications - Marilyn Ricci's chapbook Rebuilding A Number 39, and DA Prince's first full collection, Nearly The Happy Hour - in Leicester.
It was good to meet Marilyn, and to see Davina and HappenStance publisher Helena Nelson again, and the excellent turn-out on another day of foul weather was testament to a strong grass-roots poetry scene in Leicester.
Both poets read very well. It's interesting that a couple of Davina's poems concern swans, because her poems remind me of that old thing about appearing serene and elegant on the surface, while all sorts of things are going on just out of sight. It's all far more complicated than it first appears, but she uses the rhythms of everyday speech very well, so it's never difficult. She also writes very good light verse - an underrated skill, in my book. I should also point out that we both went to the same school, years apart, so it's good to be able to cheer her success.
Marilyn's writing is often grounded in family memory, and both she and Helena pointed out that, while that sort of thing is sometimes derided by poetry critics, there's no reason why it should be, when it's done well. It was here - for a start there's plenty of character in the poems, with everyday (Leicester) speech well captured*. There's also a sparingly used surrealism, which gives several of the poems an element of surprise. And finally, you're plunged right into the middle of the memory so that, I suppose, it's rather like recalling them yourself, rather than being told them by somebody else.
* One poem, Yakking, uses the title word in a sense that is, in my experience, exclusive to Leicester and its environs. To 'yak' means to throw, usually quite violently, and although a lot of local dialect words seem to be passing out of use, this is one I still hear (and use) regularly, not least on the cricket field. It's always been a source of annoyance to me that our accent and dialect gets so badly represented in the media. On the rare occasions that a TV programme is set in Leicester, for example, they generally use a Birmingham accent, but the reality is quite different. You can hear a huge difference between Nuneaton, on the Brum side of Watling Street, and Hinckley, only three or four miles away on the Leicester side of what I've always thought is a big linguistic divide, almost certainly down to the fact that we were part of the old Danelaw. In fact, we were more heavily settled by the Vikings than just about anywhere in England, as evidenced by all those Leicester surnames like Kettle, Herrick and Askill.