That’s a recipe for a convivial and enriching evening, and that’s exactly what we got last Thursday at the launch of the fourth Loose Muse anthology, downstairs at Cottons on Exmouth Market. Once again, Agnes Meadows and her co-editors have put together a varied and top-class collection of writing by women who have attended one of the monthly Loose Muse events at the Poetry Café or the soon-to-be-regular Manchester offshoot; and Lorraine Clarke has provided another stunning image for the cover.
I was one of the many contributors to read on the night, and it was a pleasure to perform my story Stranded to such an attentive audience. Camilla Reeve read from her commissioned short story, Freeze Frame, very assured and crisp writing, and amazing to hear this is the first short story she’s written. Another first, for Kirstyn Brook, performing her first published poem, Life Test, dealing with self-harm; strong stuff, painful, raw, but feisty and life-affirming too. Mothers featured in several poems: Amy Neilson Smith reading her touching poem Mother Love, while Natasha Morgan’s Mother’s Day aches across the years. Niki Aguirre read powerfully from her short story Puerto Polizo, the narrator a child longing for stability, a ‘normal’ childhood. There was hard-hitting political poetry from Sue Johns with Before the Pussy Riots and a heart-tugger War and Romance from Joolz Sparkes. Anne Cooper’s untitled poem, about a young British-Iraqi woman learning Arabic is tender and thoughtful. Vivienne Vermes contributed two deliciously wicked flash fictions, Jill Abram read her beautifully balanced meditation on tea and friendship, Chado, and Leila Segal impressed me with the cool, restrained prose of her story Everything here is difficult, perfectly matched by her delivery. Agnes began proceedings with her poem Zen: The Process of Translating the Ordinary and finished by performing three magical poems contributed by Balaba-Aseka, who was too shy to take to the stage. Agnes did her proud, just as the anthology does for all us contributors.