On Thursday evening there was a reading to celebrate the Mixed Borders scheme run earlier this year by the Poetry School in association with the Open Garden Squares Weekend. I’ve written previously about the scheme which, for most poets, led to a mini residency in a London park or garden in mid June. Over the summer, I continued to try to set something up with the park I hoped to work with, but unfortunately in the end this hasn’t proved possible. Nevertheless, I’ve learnt a lot along the way and have written a bunch of new poems about dew, orchards, old trees and more. Watch out, poetry magazine editors!
Thursday’s reading came under the umbrella of International Alert’s Talking Peace Festival, with the theme ‘peace in our city’. It took place in the cinema space inside the House of Vans, a thoroughly urban art and skate venue housed in railway arches beneath Waterloo station. Nearly a dozen poets from the Mixed Borders project gathered in the bare brick vault, perching ourselves on tiered plywood benches, and taking turns to clamber down to the front and read a short selection of poems. The attentive audience included friends and associates, but not too many skateboarders, as far as I could tell. As incongruous as the surroundings seemed for showcasing poetry about gardens, it meant there were no distractions and the poems flowered and dazzled in their own right. The variety and inventiveness were wonderful to hear – contemplative poems, collaborative and stitched together poems, lyrical, quirky, beautifully observed, and laugh-aloud funny poems. What also came through so strongly was the attachment each poet had formed with their allotted garden and how the experience has enriched their poetry in ways that will continue to ripple out. Even though my experience has been a little different, I’ve tackled new subject matter and poetic approaches, and written poems that have surprised me. My involvement with the Mixed Borders project has also deepened my appreciation of London’s green spaces and how invaluable they are to so many people.
The Poetry School has also produced an online pamphlet featuring a number of poems by each poet. You can stroll through our garden here: http://campus.poetryschool.com/campus-pamphlets-mixed-borders/
Or download the pdf version here: http://campus.poetryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Mixed-Borders-FINAL.pdf