Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Birds and the Trees

On Sunday I read at Norwich Arts Centre as part of The Birds and the Trees, an event organised by Café Writers. The sun shone, the turnout was excellent, and it was all a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, Paul Farley was ill and unable to make it, which meant a bit of a last-minute rejig, so Katrina Porteous and myself read two 15-minute sets each in the afternoon, then, after a very nice picnic out in the garden, we read for about 10 minutes each before Mark Cocker’s talk. To finish off, there was a brief Q&A session.

I’d heard Katrina read on the radio, but she’s one of those poets who can still surprise you every time with the power of her performance, and the depth of her material. She was genuinely hypnotic at times, especially in the poems which involved Northumbrian dialect, and she was ably assisted by Martin Figura (who had organised the event) on one piece which required two voices.

Mark’s Birds Britannica is, as I’ve said on here before, one of my favourite books, but this time he wasn’t reading from it or from the equally highly-praised Crow Country. Instead, he turned his attention to trees. One of the things I like most about his writing is that it’s sort of telescopic – it zooms in on very fine details and back out again, and in doing so of course makes all sorts of unexpected connections – and that was much in evidence here. I’ve been thinking since about a lot of the things he mentioned, and I’ll write more about it and how it applies to poetry and birding over the next few weeks. Oh, and Robin Hood even got a mention, too, and you know how much I like anything to do with that particular legend.

Finally, it was lovely to meet all sorts of new people, including Michael Mackmin, Aoife Mannix, Katrina and Mark, of course, and last but certainly not least, Martin Figura and Helen Ivory, who very generously put me up. I hope I’ll have the chance to reciprocate sometime, perhaps later this year when Martin’s book comes out with Arrowhead.

My set-lists, for anyone interested, were:

The Creek
Sevenling (“High on the windward hills”)
Scorpio Over La Selva
Troy Town
The Memory of Water
At Gedney Hill
Hares In December

Ringing Redstarts
Paradise Tanager
Yellow Wagtails
Another Bloody Poem About Birds
Raining, Craswall, Evening

The Meeting Place
West Leicester Lullaby

Oh, and I did a bit of birding along the North Norfolk coast on the way back yesterday, but the wildlife was rather overshadowed by an absolutely incredible thunderstorm. I was lucky that I wasn't caught out in it, so could just enjoy a real spectacle.

1 comment:

Coastcard said...

It sounds as though it proved to be a most rewarding trip. The storm must have been incredible. I still miss those wide East Anglian skies...

I gather Katrina was reading her poem, 'Shanky', on Radio 3 on Sturday (probably recorded?).