Through the window of poetry

Sunday 15 August 2010

Don Paterson (photo credit Al Buntin)

The sun shone yesterday on the first day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival adding to the festive atmosphere in Charlotte Square. In the afternoon, the first of  the Festival's poetry readings was introduced by guest selector, Don Paterson, who read at StAnza back in March.

First on the podium was John Stammers, whose literary reputation as a 'dandy and a metaphysical' makes him unique among contemporary poetic voices. But he pulled few punches with poems from his new, soul-scouring collection Interior Night. Images of love among musical instruments in  'Ondine' gave way to disturbing and yet darkly humorous narratives about drug addiction and an ode to a poster of  the singer, Alison Goldfrapp, seen from a London Underground platform. Strong, satirical stuff.

Sinead Morrissey’s gentle delivery counterpointed the powerful content of her poems, taken from her collection Through the Square Window. Her work ranged through a found poem based on the contents page of  a script of the York Mystery Plays to childhood memories of eating jugged hare, and the joys and fears of being a mother. Two of the most provocative images came from the title poem:  one is a dream of the dead arriving to wash the windows of a mother’s house. The other comes from  an experience of temporary paralysis on waking:  ‘flat on my back with a cork/ in my mouth, bottle-stoppered, in fact,/like a herbalist’s cure for dropsy.’  Morrissey is adept at exploring the mysteries at the heart of everyday experiences.

For the rest of the festival poetry programme, including some StAnza poets, click here

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