Thursday 7.30pm 20 March
Doug Sandle writes:
The Heart café with daffodils and night light candles on every table was a cosy atmospheric venue for the annual headline guest poetry event of the LitFest. A full house was introduced to Yorkshire poet John Wedgwood Clarke and to the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke. As was remarked – with a LitFest event still to come entitled A Pair of Sandles, we were not expecting also to feature a pair of Clarkes! The event opened with our usual format of a five minute taster from each of our guests – of which Gillian joked that it would give an opportunity for the audience to decide whether to stay or not – but of course after the taster session no-one left and all remained for what was to be an enthralling and intensely evocative evening from two poets whose respect for and craft with language and the expressive intensity of their descriptive and metaphorical use of words was spell binding.
John’s work reflected his interest in sea swimming and the relationship between swimmer and sea and his poetic exploration of the coastal land and sea scape of the East Yorkshire coast. His careful reading enabled each word, each pause and each phrase to echo with meaning to convey a basic human and yet spiritual encounter with sea, shore and coast and an evocative expression of both a specific and universal sense of place, and of its life and narratives.
Gillian read with an engaging easiness that lulled the listener into an encounter that was an intense expression of her poetic response to nature and landscape (especially that which was winter sharp and ice cold), and the narratives, lives, and events they and their seasons framed. Often intensely descriptive, her poetry’s sensuous and sensory imagery drew us into the deeper resonances of their narratives revealing a very humane respect for and love of life.
1. Really good evening as ever – congratulations on organizing these memorable evenings esp. getting Gillian Clarke at such short notice. Candles and flowers, really good atmosphere.
3. Two fine poets. And HEART did it well.
4. A first-class event. Both poets were on top form. John Wedgwood Clarke’s command of language is impressive and Gillian’s poetry is lovely, lyrical and full of beautiful imagery.
5. Brilliant! These two poets complemented each other perfectly. A rare opportunity to experience famous poets like Gillian Clarke in intimate surroundings – small number audience.
6. There was a delightfully all-embracing atmosphere. Both poets were outstanding as speakers (vocally) and as communicators. The overall organisation of the event was superb.
7. Two very different poets. Inspirational, relaxing, & stimulating. A really excellent evening.
8. Very entertaining and inspiring.
9. Good sound system!! Excellent poetry – clear reading!! Welcoming, friendly venue!! Very good!!
10. Wonderful – but John Clarke was somewhat overshadowed.
11. I could listen to Gillian Clarke read and speak all day! I love the format of anecdote and poem, as it (anecdote) adds an extra dimension to the meaning of the poem. Carry on with the poetry please!
12. Really good evening – very inspiring.
13. Excellent evening. Terrific atmosphere created by these two poets. Relaxed and without any kind of poetic pomp, they riveted the audience. Thanks to Headingley LitFest for this event.
14. J.W.C. enjoyed poems. Would have liked 15 mins for questions to learn more. G.C. – generous sharing of the back-stories of her poems. Gentle humour. Wonderful poetry. More!
15. Thoroughly enjoyed both. A brief question and answer session with each would have been great.
16. Such a privilege to be in the company of such an amazing woman.
17. John was a good choice for a Leeds audience – we recognised so much of the area and empathized with his emotions. Gillian’s poetry was sensual and almost mythical. An inspirational evening!
18. Really good quality poetry and well read, with two important poets. Nicely compèred by Sheila and Doug, and the length of the evening was just right.
19. I thought that both poets were very good and I particularly enjoyed John’s coastal poetry.
20. Fab readings. (Fridges a bit noisy). Great opportunity to hear memorable words.
21. Very special and evocative.
22. Nice balance between the two poets – good to have a regional voice as well as a ‘national’ poet – both very good. Nice relaxed atmosphere – and great that it cost only £6 – very good value.
23. A privilege to hear two poets of such quality in one evening. Well done to the Headingley LitFest for getting them to read their work.
24. Delightful evening! What a privilege to hear Gillian Clarke – a real coup for the LitFest to bring her to Leeds.
25. Enjoyed both poets very much. So evocative of place and memory. Made me want to experience those places. I have experienced them through their words
26. 1. Lovely venue – warm, relaxing, comfortable with welcome refreshments available. 2. Successful structure – nice introductions, and a welcome interval. 3. Good speakers – Gillian Clarke was exceptional. I would like to have a hug from her one day.