Two literary evenings on the trot. First up, on Tuesday, to the London Review Bookshop to hear Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts read from and discuss their new book Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness. In the spirit of their collaborative approach to writing the book, they took turns reading passages from the chapter entitled ‘Water’, which explored the varieties of standing water, pools and ponds to be found in those in-between places now named as the Edgelands. Rich with images, resonances, asides, flecks of humour, the writing reflects the many strange beauties that lurk in the neglected margins of the English landscape. The discussion that followed focussed in part on the collaborative process, and it was interesting to hear how excited and energised both poets seemed to be almost as much by this aspect, finding a single writing voice together, as by the material of their book.
Then, on Wednesday, to Foyles on Charing Cross Road for the launch of the spring edition of Poetry London. I was primarily keen to hear Marilyn Hacker read, but it was also a good opportunity to encounter some new voices – new to me, anyway. Ahren Warner read first, some shortish poems from his first pamphlet Re:, and then the long poem Troia Nova, which is published in the latest issue of Poetry London. A many-layered poem, a paean to London, traversing its streets, characters, places across time, invoking the city’s numerous names – a tour de force which I’m looking forward to reading and savouring again. Julia Copus read next, kicking off her gold sandals after the first poem – that’s style! After the break, and a free glass of wine, Julian Stannard took to the podium, some of his poems achieving that difficult trick of mixing humorous and darker elements. There were vivid poems from his years spent in Italy, generously seasoned with Italian phrases. And that playfulness with language, which is the source surely of the impulse to write, came out even more in Marilyn Hacker’s reading of her luminous, magisterial, generous poems.