On Monday night, I was at the last Nine Arches Press/Crystal Clear Creators Shindig of the year, at The Western in Leicester.
As usual, the open mic readers were both varied and of high quality, and it's particularly good to hear pieces of short fiction punctuating the poetry.
The featured readers were all poets whose work I'm familiar with, and all, I thought, shared something in their delivery of their work. They're undemonstrative yet expressive, they pace both the individual poems and the whole set beautifully, and there was always a slight tension underlying their readings, a result, I think, of their ability to create a stillness in the room, a feeling that something is about to happen.
Cora Greenhill's The Point Of Waking is a collection that I've returned to a couple of times over the last year or so, and her reading here will no doubt send me back to it again.
Stephen Payne's Pattern Beyond Chance is recently out from HappenStance, and it's full of collisions between poetry and science, reflecting his day job. Above all, they're poems that constantly ask questions, both about their subject matter and the means of expressing it, and that curiosity is infectious - you start asking the same questions, too.
Finally, Daniel Sluman's the terrible is his second collection from Nine Arches. Judging from what we heard here, it builds on the many strengths of his debut by managing to be even more starkly honest. The result is both harrowing, at times, but also full of astonishing tenderness. The title poem, in particular, was stunning. It's a very difficult balancing act to pull off, but he does it beautifully, and I can't wait to read the book.