BOOK FESTIVAL – Miriam Gamble, Sam Riviere & Jo Walton

By Mark Bolsover

A good-size audience from a broad range of demographics, drew together in the slightly awkwardly arranged, close and cramped space of the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre, to hear a smart, eclectic set (both in terms of its substance and energy) of performed poetry by Miriam Gamble, Sam Riviere and Jo Walton.

The event was arranged to promote Dear World & Everyone In It: new poetry in the UK , an anthology, as the title would suggest, of new poetry by young and emerging UK poets that boasts a broad stylistic and ideological sweep.

The event was chaired by the anthology’s editor Nathan Hamilton, who introduced the three poets. Though slightly awkward and clearly very nervous, Hamilton was a charming, humourous and self-deprecating host and his reading of excerpts from his introduction to the anthology worked well to introduce its aim to promote co-operation, hybridisation, experimentation and debate amongst new poets. Hamilton clearly demonstrated his awareness of the difficulties of comprehensive inclusion of new poetry in any given anthology.

Sam Riviere was the first of the poets to take to the mic, reading poems included in the anthology as well as some newer work. Riviere’s poetry is smart and funny, focussing on a deliberately and deceptively affected cynical play on mundane, everyday objects and details. His work plays on the anecdotal, as well as on genres such as found poetry. His reading was delivered in a flat (sarcastic) monotone well-suited to the poems, but whilst this style was good, his delivery could use more energy and engagement (particularly eye-contact) with his audience (though its fair to say that the corporate conference set-up of the Theatre, with the participants performing from a podium awkwardly set at the side of the stage, was not exactly congenial to this).

Next up, Miriam Gamble took to the podium. Gamble was a more confident, spontaneous and personable speaker and performer than eitherHamilton or Riviere. Her poems, including a beached whale used as political metaphor, have bitter humour and a sense of frustrated, slightly angry cynicism. She delivers them in somehow familiar rhythmic, lilting tones and has a sad, oracular style of delivery.

Jo Walton read from an extended extract of a poem on the Scottish Independence debate. Though seeming quite reserved initially, Walton’s reading quickly achieved a frenetic and charged pitch—a kind of mad prophetic bombast… His (co-authored) poem was by far the most complex and interesting work of the set. It is formed from a surreal accumulation of images and details, which seem to be swallowed by the pace and force of the poem before the audience/reader can fully register them, with just brief flashes of recognition and comprehension emerging. The poem contains beautiful, hard and punctual use of language and Walton’s delivery maintained an angry, bouncing flow, seeming to play most obviously on Hip-Hop music.

Though the event slightly overran and would have benefited from better preparation and. and organisation, it was gratifying to see new poetry being promoted at the EIBF. the event provided an interesting showcase of the quality and variety of work in Dear World & Everyone In It: new poetry in the UK and the anthology looks to be a valuable and worthy project.

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