Friday saw me whizzing down the M5 to Bristol to read at Park Street Poets, held at the excellent Boston Tea Party, which not only boasted a really nice upstairs reading room, but also some great carrot cake. It's a quarterly event hosted by the poet David Briggs, whose Salt collections The Method Men and Rain Rider I can warmly recommend.
I read first, mainly from The Elephant Tests, although I did give a rare outing to The Meeting Place, from Troy Town, thanks to the generous time slots. The good-sized audience were more than kind, and it was, as I've said, a really nice space to read in, with the university clock chiming dimly in the background.
Alasdair Paterson's reading was excellent, taking in work from Brumaire and Later, the Flarestack pamphlet that marked his return to writing poetry after 20 years away, as well as his two recent Shearsman collections, On The Governing of Empires and Elsewhere or Thereabouts. His poetry wears its considerable learning and wit lightly, moving beyond mainstream lyrics while never forgetting the value of a good story or the musical potential of language. He reminds me of a favourite poet of mine, Lee Harwood, as well as a name that cropped up during the reading, Harry Guest, in his ability to create and inhabit a space entirely his own.
The same could be said of the final reader, Carrie Etter. Being an American expat who has taught in the UK for the last decade might be partly responsible for that, but whatever the reason, she's able to move between poetry genres and schools easily and without self-consciousness. She read from Imagined Sons, her new Seren collection, and delivered what must be difficult material (the book concerns the experience of giving up a child for adoption) with quiet confidence that had us all, I think, utterly enthralled.
I'm not going to say anything more about the poems for now, because I've spent part of today reading the book straight through twice, and I'd like to review it properly in the near future. Suffice to say that the chosen forms work perfectly with the material, and best of all, that this is poetry that always feels as though it needs to be written.
Finally, it was great to meet Carrie at last, having been online acquaintances for several years, along with Alasdair and David, and thanks are due to the appreciative and generous audience.