Poetry Powerhouses

My Read Regional events were fun, sometimes dream-like interludes, in the rhythm of the week. I met many dedicated, creative readers and inspirational library staff. The warmth and kindness shown towards me was heartening and renewed my sense of the importance of live literature events. It was also, in a general sense, a relief to be sent somewhere rather than have to decide where to go! Each reading was a mystery tour into the Northern summer. I lay on my back at Morpeth Library and gazed up at an outdoor light on a covered walkway and marvelled at the quantity of spider’s webs, moth-wreckage and squiggles of snail-grazing on the white surface surrounding the lamp: summer in full creep.

How strange it was at last to be here at the home of the fabled Northern Poetry Library collection. I only had time to read a few spines and pluck out a couple of pamphlets, but it felt to me, as I stood up to read in front of its book stacks, that I had the true Northern powerhouse behind me humming like a transformer. It was quietly thrilling. It made me want to honour it in the Q&A after my reading with an impromptu recitation of the first part of Briggflatts, Basil Bunting’s great poem. Bunting’s leaping rhythms and long, assonantal cables of vowels, pit breath and consonant in a tense and energised relationship akin to those between rigging, sail, and a wind out of the Anglo-Saxon poem The Seafarer, a poem I had in mind while making Ghost Pot. This artful interlacing of sounds within and across the poetic line was the subject of more than one discussion with audiences as we talked through these old techniques, usually as a response to questions about end-rhyme and poetic form.

What I found on my travels with Read Regional was friendship with other Read Regional writers, frank comments (including one who said it was a shame I didn’t have a voice like Ted Hughes, to which I had to agree), and a sense of freedom to invent myself again at each venue. I found out things about my own poems I wouldn’t have discovered without the help of such good listeners and readers – thank you!