This is a fascinating and wide ranging conversation between Steven Matthews and Naomi Wolf, about the importance of poetry in these times of climate crisis.
The meeting with Naomi Wolf came about in the wake of a previous recorded talk Steven had with her a few years ago, which had received interest in the US. The opportunity this time derived from recent poems that he has been working on, subsequent to the work that went into the On Magnetism book published by Two Rivers Press in 2017. These new poems arise partly from a residency in 2016 at Oxford Natural History Museum, but also from more recent commissions.
The theme, therefore, was the Environmental Emergency, but more particularly the role that poetry might play in raising awareness of the situation, the loss of species, and the climatic alterations we are all suffering. The interview involves readings from recent work about that loss, its consequences – but also a discussion of the traditional roles that poetry has taken from Classical times in response to natural disaster. In the course of talk about a new translation of passages from Ovid by Steven Matthews, for instance, there is consideration of the ways that human transgression resulted in environmental cataclysm in the Metamorphoses. Poetry is both reporting on events, and forewarning about their consequences. Towards the end of the discussion in the interview, there is broader consideration of the origins of Steven’s poetry, of technique (in fact a running theme throughout), and of the urgency for poetry to be heard amidst the cacophonies of modern life.
Come and listen to our recently published poetry! Conor Carville and James Peake will read from ‘English Martyrs’ and ‘Reaction Time of Glass’ respectively (both published this autumn) and Peter Robinson will also be reading from ‘Bonjour Mr Inshaw’ (officially published in Jan 2020 but advance copies will be available). Next Thurday – 21st November, 6.30pm in London.
This Saturday 9th November, at 4pm, Claire Dyer, Lesley Saunders and Susan Utting will be performing in the Peter Pears Gallery: a conversation on gender, its complexity, perplexity, its poetry. You can book here.
Trial By Combat- Fry’s Island, Reading
In April 1163, a great concourse of people assembled.
The King himself was there. Essex and Monfort were
ferried over to the island , and were bidden to fight out
their quarrel. Let God judge between them!
Royal Berkshire History
David Nash Ford
Water lapped the island’s edge
and branches swayed in calm.
On banks across the silver-streaked,
carp-brown water, crowds would swarm
anticipating death as righteous judgement.
A faith was placed in truth and falsehood
travelling through the flesh where two men lived.
Startled crows would fleck the near-sky
as metallic crash of combat played.
The accuser’s limbs found ease
in iron confinement and they sprang
heavy-handed blows upon the accused.
Years after disgrace in sinew and muscle,
followed by the ghost-pulse of survival,
came years filled with monastic, faceless living.
The man who’d been Henry of Essex would say
a vision of St Edmund the Martyr loomed
between the island and the clouds,
all vitality draining from his limbs.
Damon Young has been published in a variety of journals, is a winner of the Alzheimer’s Society Poetry Prize, has been commended in the Prole Laureate Prize, long-listed for the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year and short-listed for The Robert Graves Poetry Prize, The Wells Festival of Literature Poetry Prize, The Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize and the Welshpool Poetry Prize. He helps to run the Reading Stanza of the Poetry Society and Reading’s Poets’ Cafe.
Late, the bus is late. I wait.
Imaginings skulk out of the 5am fog. A
Fog thick with portent. Disconcerting fog.
Flummoxing fog. An idle fog. A clingy
fog. Fog. Mist. Smog. Vapour. Miasma.
Haze. Murkiness. Gloom. Opacity.
Hulking charcoal shadows of Victorian homes
edge their way into realisation.
A solitary blackbird sings out into the indolent
obscurity. Condensation confuses the timetable
that I read in vain, bleak efforts.
Waiting for the headlights of the Number 21
to break the creosote-laden grey.
Poem by Elissa Michele Zacher
Elissa Michele Zacher has written for The Epoch Times, Ottawa Natural, Apt (an online literary magazine), the Essence Poetry Journal, and the Dawntreader Magazine. She currently lives in England, on and off in Reading.