4 September 2012

Review of the Poetry Prom 2012

By Rachel Sloane

Poetry Prom at Snape Proms, Snape Concert Hall on 23 August 2012

This, one of the biggest audiences for poetry reading in the country, is an event that poetry lovers and those new to the genre always enjoy every year.

The Poetry Trust, based in Halesworth, invite three internationally known poets  to read some of their work (twenty five minutes each) and, sometimes, explain more about the context that they were written in.  The idea being that with three poets there will probably be one you love, one that you enjoy and one that… well, there’s a possibility, may not be quite your cup of tea.

This year the poets were Imtiaz Dharker from Scotland, Marie Howe from America and Paul Duncan from Ireland.

Imtiaz describes herself as  a “Scottish Pakistani Calvinist Muslim who grew up in Glasgow, was adopted by India and also (through marriage) Wales”.

With her warm, sensual voice she read poems about her home in Bombay when the ceiling came down and they gave away their possessions  (This Room), of how people have been confused by her saying, “she must be from another country”   (Like That Only), and of the puzzling British phrase, uttered by everyone from football managers to Hollywood stars, “we are over the moon” and asking “where is this place?”   My favourite? The poem about the Bombay Tiffin boxes, prepared in rural homes and delivered to their owners in city office blocks at 11o’clock daily by illiterate porters, who identify the locations by a mark or a symbol.

Marie Howe began her reading by introducing her daughter who was in the audience, and though many of her poems were thoughtful and challenging, such as The Gate, about her brother who died of AIDS, she also included one (Practising) about her memories of practising kissing with her same-sex friends and Courage, which made me laugh,  about her introducing her two year old daughter to the playground and being told off by a four year old boy who thought she wasn’t old enough for such dangerous play!

Casually dressed in a yellow jumper with his sleeves rolled up, Paul Duncan spoke with a soft Irish burr, not telling us anything of how or why his poems were written, but letting them speak for themselves. The Most Extraordinary Innovation, spoke of his time in hospital and his experience of being nursed (“inject you with smiles”), Thinking about Suicide was rather worrying,  and Golden Mothers Driving West started as an amusing tale of three elderly ladies escaping from an Alzheimer’s Home, but ended disconcertingly with them jumping off a bridge to their deaths.  A favourite poem of the Snape audience was Aldeburgh October Storm, written at the Wentworth Hotel as he sheltered from a storm and watched two parties get mixed up in the confusion:  a 90th birthday party and a christening group, baby buggies and wheelchairs intermingling.

The popularity of poetry means that the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in early November will, for the first time, use Snape Maltings as well as halls in Aldeburgh itself. A free bus will connect the two venues.  More details on  www.thepoetrytrust.org


This review and others also appears on www.onesuffolk.co.uk