Derby reading and Spinning Plates

I met Gina Clarke at Ashbourne, Derbyshire, in 2010. I remember it being a fantastic summer day (we had them then). The event, part of the annual Ashbourne arts festival, was Poetry in the Garden, and it was one of the first poetry events I had ventured out to since seeing Brian Patten, Adrian Henri and Roger McGough in the early 1980’s.

The brilliant Derbyshire poet River Wolton (her book, Leap is published by Smiths/Doorstop) was reading that day, along with poets who had submitted poems and had been invited to perform to a small audience seated in deck chairs . I was thrilled to see my poem and those of the other  invited poets pinned to trees around the magnificent garden of Dove Cottage. I remember electric purple Alliums the size of footballs,  an impressive display of flora, a burgeoning vegetable patch and bees and butterflies floating through our words. The following year a more formal competition was introduced. Jo Bell was judging the competition that year, and I was fortunate enough to be a runner-up. This meant I got to read and meet people again, this time, due to the inclement weather, in Ashbourne Village Hall.

Anyway, back to my meeting with Gina Clarke. Gina is a member of Derby Poetry Society, and to my delight, she invited me to read that day in 2010.  It was to be my first headline gig, and, even better, I was to be paid!

Derby, like most poetry societies, plan their events well in advance, and I was scheduled for winter 2011. Since it was a very icy and cold day, Gina rang me to ask if I wanted to cancel and reschedule. I gratefully accepted this offer and tonight, two years later,  I had a wonderful time at Derby Poetry Society. The members meet in a lovely Quaker Hall in Derby which I noticed from the foundation stone was built in 1808. The main hall has a very high ceiling and  large arched windows which reminded me (for those TV watching kids of the 1970’s ) of the arched window in Playschool. The acoustics and the light were fantastic, and the audience very keen to interact and offer personal anecdotes sparked by the subject matter in some of my poems.  A splendid time was had by me, and I hope, by all.

I am an occasional reviewer for Sphinx, the on-line pamphlet review magazine run by Helena Nelson of Happenstance. Today I received Spinning Plates by Richie McCaffery. I’ve had a quick look and like what I see very much, admiring both the economy of style and the subject matter. I’m struck by a poem about an abandoned baby which contains the line

her lips sapphire blue,
tiny lungs like strawberries
full of pneumonia.

I look forward to taking this pamphlet away to entertain me on what promises to be a soggy holiday.


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