After a short summer hiatus, Selected Poems at the V&A Reading Rooms was back on an unseasonal balmy night in September.
We were celebrating the launch of Days of Roses’ first poetry anthology, with readers from the book and, as a headliner, the wonderful Christopher Reid, author of the Costa Book Prize winner A Scattering.
Declan Ryan, one of the editors of Days of Roses anthology, started the night off with a few of his pieces. What I love about Declan’s work, beyond his thematics and his effective, subtle forms, is his way that he writes for people. It gives the work such a personal resonance, reminiscent of the New York school. But what the work may lack in a conversational tone, it prospers in emotional dexterity, witty observations and admiration.
The next poet to read was Lydia Macpherson. Lydia, although admitting that she doesn’t read that often, absolutely killed it. Her work in the anthology is amongst the best in the book. Her work is incredibly luxurious – green curtains, milk drinks in the afternoon – it’s indulgent (not in the bad way).
What she read on the night was short and incredibly captivating. This is the first time I had heard Lydia read and I am thoroughly hoping that her reading on the night breaks the cycle of her not reading.
Starting the second half was Malene Engelund, the other editor of the Days of Roses anthology. Her work is intense, understated and concise – it reminds me of Ian Hamilton.
It’s a poetry about intimacy of love and friendship, from electric can openers to wings folding in and out of each other. She gave an excellent reading, which began an excellent second part.
The penultimate reader, Liz Berry, gave one of the best readings of Selected Poems at the V&A Reading Rooms series (a bold statement, I know). Being a primary school teacher, she can deliver a story with excellent cadence and emphasis, so much so that it immediately engages the audience.
She read mainly new poems on the night – dialectic poems based based in Liz’s native Black Country, poems on a fish wife’s marriage and much more. I don’t think there was a person in the room who wasn’t totally enraptured by her reading.
We were very lucky to have as a headline reader the wonderful Christopher Reid – a poetic stalwart who’s reading consisted of one part of a long poem about a professor attending a series of lectures at a seaside town. The piece followed the professor around the lecture hall and the beaches, as he ponders on his lost love and the memories they shared with each other.
Needless to say he gave an excellent reading, and was a wonderful way to end the evening. Several delicious Australian beers later, the poets dispersed…to the four corners of London, and the pub.