Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tom Paulin and Jamie McKendrick at Farmleigh

At Farmleigh House last evening Tom Paulin and Jamie McKendrick read to a capacity or near capacity audience. A contrast in poetic styles and content though both read in a quiet friendly "at home in the sitting room" style which was very effective.

In her introduction, Farmleigh writer in residence Stella Tillyard described Jamie McKendrick as "an archaeologist of the commonplace" or words to that effect. He wrote of natural everyday things, his house being flooded, a death, each poem a neat self-contained package with a fine use of words and fresh, sometimes startling, insights. Not that these were all domestic poems, he read his ‘Ancient History’ written as he said at the time of the first Gulf War and loosely based on some of the Roman historian's Livy's work.

‘The year began with baleful auguries:
comets, eclipses, tremors, forest fires,

the waves lethargic under a coat of pitch

the length of the coastline. And a cow spoke, "

This and his Six Characters in Search of Something which you can read here, were the highlights of his set.

Tom Paulin on the other hand read poems which seemed only snippets of a fuller story, the story of his family, Irish history, Northern Protestants, the history of western Europe. All were interesting and well crafted with a mixture of the colloquial and the literary.

But it was his last poem which was the highlight. This had been written to a commission from BBC Radio 3 and so was originally written to be read aloud rather than read on the page. The original poem was 19 minutes long so he read only part of it. A collage of bits and snippets from other poems and popular songs it twisted and turned like a mad patchwork of references, some of which were very obvious some less so. You can hear Paulin read some poems here at Poetry Archive.

A most enjoyable evening.

No comments: