Saturday, 19 March 2016

An Evening with Andrew McMillan and Linda Black

Linda Black and Andrew McMillan                               Photo by Richard Wilcocks
Richard Wilcocks writes on Linda Black:
To be challenged, even tormented, by Linda Black’s poetry is pleasurable, because she usually gets the riddling right. Delivering her work as if she was in a cheerful but fragmented conversation with the audience and with herself, she took us into her gallery to scrutinize fragments of perception, tiny details plucked out of transience, hand-scoops from her beck of consciousness. She was glad to be in Headingley Library, away from London and up in Leeds, where she was once at the old Art School, and where local people speak like those in her childhood memories. I was taken aback, at first, not just by the fact that prose poems are not run-of-the-mill, especially when her juxtapositions and rhythms are in them, but by the startling, rawly honest-sounding treatments of her family, her father for instance, though I was never absolutely sure who the ‘her’ and the ‘she’ was throughout the reading. I assume that the ‘she’ is Linda Black, often detaching herself like an omniscient observer. The pleasure comes partly from not being absolutely sure about anything and partly from being invited to supply the rest of a narrative, which may or may not be there in the poet’s mind. The torment comes partly from many of her endings, which tend to be jumps into the blue. Often, it was as if I was anticipating the final notes in a piece of music which would normally complete a sequence, which do not come.

By the time in the reading when she reached her new collection Slant, a departure from prose poetry, I was really engaged. Here were the minute observations again, along with allusions and references to gardens and the countryside:

A crispen  leaf  a cleft shell  a corridor

Of earthworm  growth

Clipped  (she prunes)   cut

&  the more  will grow

Here too were homages to other writers, their actual words beautifully arranged with great skill. Virginia Woolf, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Bishop all got the treatment. This little stretch of life (from the letters of Elizabeth Bishop) was breathtaking. Does she wield a craft knife on printed pages to slice out what is needed? Or does she live with a poet’s notebook (she has a note-taker’s fondness for the ampersand) full of lists and collections of fine-sounding words – especially amusing pairs linked by hyphens – to create her own sprung rhythms, her own music?

Audience Comments:
Particularly enjoyed Andrew's poetry but overall great readings.

Linda's poetry was beautifully delivered by Linda herself from earlier prose poetry and her latest verse poetry to give a true flavour of her work. I have never listened to either poet read aloud before and it really aided my understanding.


Lovely to hear poetry read by the author - gives a different feel to the words on the page. A local treat. Thank you.

Excellent. Lovely cosy venue. Such a pleasure. Thank you.

Wonderful readings - really enjoyed it.

Love being read to. Liked 2 poets - different styles.

Very enjoyable event - lovely readings from quite singular poets.

Fantastic event bringing poetry to Leeds.

Great readings - thanks!                

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