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Jen Hadfield and the poetry crowd


Have you ever wondered what happens when you get a lot of poets and fans of poetry crammed into the same room? John Walsh writes at The Independent about the TS Eliot poetry award, which he hosted earlier this week.

When I first attended a PBS (Poetry Book Society) readings evening, which features short-listed poets, it was a modest enterprise, attended by maybe 50 souls who’d grudgingly ventured out into the January night. Long trench coats hung from the backs of wooden chairs, and the poets had to clamber over each other to reach the stage. As years went by, word spread about the readings, and more people came, forcing the Society to book a 550-seat auditorium at the Bloomsbury Hotel. Last year, it was so crowded, there was some unseemly barging for space in the front row – not something one associates with poetry-lovers. This year, the organisers took a chance on hiring the 950-seat Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank. By 7.30 on Sunday, it was crammed to the gills and I had the honour of being Master of Ceremonies.

It sounds like poetry is doing fine. Here is another Jen Hadfield poem (that’s Jen Hadfield, the winner – not Jed Handfield as one careless blogger called her yesterday)

Self-portrait as a Fortune-telling Miracle Fish by Jen Hadfield

I’m disappointed in the gods that formed me thus
in the likeness of the wall-eyed Halibut;
in my longing, a Meagre or Eelpout;
in my maudlin, a Poor Cod or Bitterling.
I’m disgusted with whichever of you
chose jealousy-with-an-overbite
to be my consort, my symbiotic groupie
and yet some rogue demi-deity
gave a posy of dubious virtues –
made me transparent; electric;
a Wide-eyed Flounder; a Crystal Gobi;
a Stargazer; a Velvet-belly;
a Deepsea Angler, blind,
were it not for this proboscis
that lets me troll my little lantern
in the silt and dim
off the continental shelf.
And my daemon’s a dogfish – I think –
A Starry Hound, a blunt and hungry hobo,
scrounging, starveling, sleeping on the go.

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Richard Davies

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