Loving Love Poetry

Last Monday evening, I took my husband and a friend to the warm and friendly Picador Love Poetry event hosted by Poet in the City at King’s Place and ably organised by Rebecca Wilkinson. It was well-attended and there was a buzz of excitement in the air, not only because it was Valentine’s Day and we anticipated hearing poems that were aptly described in the blurb as “about love, passion and intimate relationships, properly functioning and otherwise”, but also because we don’t often get to be in the same room as such a superb line-up of poets.

And what a pleasure it was! All the poets have interesting, distinctive voices and read clearly, with feeling and humour, and with good audience connection. This in itself set the event apart for me, because there is nothing I dislike more than good poetry badly read (which sometimes happens at poetry events, for example, when a celebrity is appointed to read just because s/he is a celebrity and has no experience of reading poetry, or the voice simply does not suit the poem, or the reader is text-bound and makes no eye contact).

Above all, the poets’ love for poetry came through, not only in their own poems, but in their selections of other great poets’ work which they read with relish. I was delighted by Lorraine Mariner’s choice of one of my favourites, the ee cummings poem “Somewhere I have never travelled”. In my own reading, I pace it and stress it slightly differently, but her fresh, excited voice conveyed the wonder expressed in the poem.

I did my best to note on my iPhone the names of the poems we heard, but it took me a while to get going and I missed some titles, particularly at the beginning, so please feel free to fill in the gaps in comments below this post and I’ll update the post accordingly. If you know of good links to transcripts or podcasts of the poem, please put those in too.

John Stammers
Own poems?
Other poems?
This lovely Guardian article has links to John Stammers’ pick of the top ten love poems of all time. Let me know if you remember which poems he read last Monday eve.

Robin Robertson
Own poems
Weather Report
Other poems
No Second Troy by Yeats

Annie Freud
Own poems
The best man that ever was
Like what you get when you play it backwards
Other poems
Lone Gentleman by Pablo Neruda

Paul Farley
Own poems
The Circuit
Living in Sin
Bacon and Eggs
Other poems
The Silken Tent by Robert Frost
Liverpool by Michael Donaghy

Lorraine Mariner
Own poems
Say I Forgot
Second Wives
There is nothing wrong with my sister
Other poems
Somewhere I have never travelled by ee cummings

Ian Duhig
Own poems
From the Irish
The Badly-Loved
Archbishop Mar Jacobus Remembers the Baron
Other poems
Labysheedy (The Silken Bed) by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

Clive James
Own poems
The Buzz
Spectre of the Rose
Other poems
The Definition of Love by Andrew Marvell
Lay your sleeping head my love by Auden
He also mentioned, although he did not read, The Marienbad Elegy by Goethe

Unfortunately, my husband and I couldn’t stay for the gorgeous-sounding Valentine’s Dinner at the Rotunda, replete with live poetry compositions and recitals by Mollie Naylor. If you were there, please tell us about it!

And what’s next? We are looking forward to the following Poet in the City events in March: Edmund Spenser at King’s Place, Going on a Bear Hunt at V&A Museum of Childhood, and Spoken Word All Stars in Cardiff. Please see the Poet in the City main site for details.

4 thoughts on “Loving Love Poetry

  1. Thanks for the post Tia. Did you enjoy Paul Farley? I really like his work but when I’ve heard it read on the radio it suffered from exactly the problem you mentioned with actors reading. I find they tend to act rather than just carefully read what’s there. Do you agree?

    1. Hi Lockie, Yes, I enjoyed Paul Farley – I haven’t heard him before, but he had good audience connection and the poems were short, so easy to absorb in a single reading.

      Actually, when I mentioned reading by “a celebrity” above, I wasn’t thinking about actors, believe it or not! I would hope that an actor does know how to read poetry – if not, then it’s not because s/he’s an actor, but because s/he’s a bad actor! But setting over-acting aside, I think an audience can benefit from an “interpretive” reading, especially when they are not familiar with the poem. It’s perhaps a different experience for people who know the poem well from their own private reading (and therefore have probably “heard” it differently inside their own heads), but most people find it difficult to grasp and absorb a poem on only hearing it once. I always wish I could hear it a second time!

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