Inspiring Older Readers
Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson @ Malvern Cube 5th May 2017
Getting the current Poet Laureate along to mark the first collaboration between the Malvern Cube and the Malvern Book Co-Operative was quite a coup and this was reflected in the excellent turn-out. I get the impression that The Cube survives as an arts centre almost out of sheer bloody-mindedness because the rumours of its demise always seem to be in the air. The paucity of funding for projects like this is always going to make it a hand-to-mouth existence but it’s good to see that big names will always draw crowds and hopefully this will give them an injection of money to help them through to the next event.
Carol Ann Duffy was reading poems from various volumes of her back catalogue and she was being helped by the musician, John Sampson. He gave the proceedings some timely atmospheric musical background to Duffy’s more sombre pieces and he was also cast in the role of the comic turn – delighting the audience with his mastery of obscure instruments and milking his short musical interludes for all the humour he could get from them.
But the majority of the crowd had come to hear Carol Ann Duffy read and she didn’t short-change them. Her verse can sometimes be dark and contemplative but she also has the ability to be sharp and witty – her imagining of the dialogue and relationships between famous men of history and their wives was, I think, the highlight of the reading as a whole. She has mastered a form of poetry that I find really engaging and effective – the backward narrative, which she gave us two examples of. The poem about the death of her mother which she unwound backwards was genuinely emotionally impactful and I think this was true for the poet as well as the audience.
Duffy read for just over one hour – about the right length of time given that it was punctuated with music – and then stayed around in the rather claustrophobic foyer area to do a book signing.
All-in-all a success and it was great to see substantial literary figures in a place like Malvern. We also got a piece of rather tantalising news hot off the presses – there may well be a Malvern Book Festival at some point in the not too distant future. Now that would be something……