Article / Event / Review

The Red Wheelbarrow National Poetry Day Reading – Poems by the Water – Event Review

event review by Vicki Bartram (Poetry Editor)

Water, water everywhere…

For quite some time now York has been a bustling hive of literature events. From the increasing popularity of the York Literature Festival, to regular open mic nights and even writing groups like York Writers calling the city walls their home, there is no better time or place to put pen to paper and let those creative juices flow.

Whether you love to write poetry, or simply sit back and listen – and if you’re reading this then chances are you probably enjoy one or both – then Poems By The Water was an evening that delivered in literary delight.

National Poetry Day, held on the first Thursday in October every year, was started in 1994 by William Sieghart as a chance to celebrate the art form and artists who share a passion for the written and spoken word. I have to say, just like Valentine’s Day, why do we need one day to celebrate something so beautiful and evocative as poetry when it should be honoured on a daily basis? Still, it was great to have an excuse to relax and let the talent that flows around Yorkshire be released.

Set in the Basement Bar at York City Screen, in a dimly lit room that seemed to overflow with people wanting to appreciate the words of those on stage, the theme of water seemed somewhat apt for a city which floods at the drop of rain.

Poets such as Carole Bromley, Becky Cherriman, Steve Nash, Abi Curtis, Oz Hardwick,  Henry Raby and of course our host Miles Salter, all shared watery themed words in keeping with this year’s theme.

The first half started off with heartfelt and melancholy pieces from successful poets such as Carole Bromley and Becky Cherriman, reflecting on miscarriage and death. Each piece managed to reference watery images in some way which held the performances together and gave the evening a cohesive narrative, despite the vast differences in each poet’s work.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. After a quick refill at the bar and a chance to say hello to the people whose work I admire, the second half was less like a meandering river gently lapping at the banks as words seemed to weave themselves around us. No, the second half brought the waves.

Both Kathy and I commented on the rise and fall of the tempo in the second half which helped to keep the interest peaked. We were flung from our seats – metaphorically speaking of course, we’re poets you know – with the emotional leap-frogging between the loud and confident performances of Henry Raby and Steve Nash to the soft and gentle reflections of Abi Curtis. Poems regaling the mysterious nature of the sea and its monstrous creatures came from Abi Curtis’ poem Squiddity, while Steve Nash brought humour and sadness with poems from his debut collection. Mr punk poet himself, Henry Raby, then brought the storm with his loud and proud appreciation of his home in My City.

The quality and diversity of the work on offer by the local poets was not only reflected by the hold they had over the audience, but also by that fact that a few scraping chairs from a room upstairs and the bass music of the club next door did not spoil or cause severe distraction. Poetry always seems to have something to contend with; television, movies and computer games always grabbing for the top spot in entertainment value. However, as this event proves, there is still a place for poetry in the world and as long as people keep writing, reading and listening to it, then long may it live.


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