If you’re in a hot and packed basement in Covent Garden on a Friday night, then you must be at a South Bank Poetry magazine launch. They’re always filled to the rafters with poets of a high calibre and an appreciative audience. SBP Issue 19 was no exception.
After an introduction from SBP founder and co-editor Peter Ebsworth, first up was Clifford Forde reading A Visit with a Friend to the Turner and the Sea Exhibition at Greenwich 2014, inspired by his friend’s complaint that there were ‘too many paintings of the sea’. Then it was our turn.
It was such a pleasure to read four London Undercurrents poems back to back and a real buzz to see them in print. The poems published in SBP feature a pupil of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Newington Green school for girls, the illiterate Catherine Boucher marrying William Blake in Battersea’s oldest church, a Holloway housewife seduced by Hollywood in the iconic Empire cinema (now the Odeon) in the 1930s, and a young woman fitting wicks in nightlights at Price’s candle factory in Battersea. After sharing these women’s voices, we could relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.
We found Derrick Porter’s Hoxton (or ‘Oxton as he referred to it) poems fascinating, as they capture aspects of the East End from way before it became hipster. Kathy Pimlott read her poem from the current issue, All the Way Here, a wonderfully evocative account of places she’d lived before settling many years ago in Covent Garden, and the tender Soho Hens poem, which was commended in the 2013 SBP competition. Other highlights included: Pauline Sewards’ entertaining mash-up Fine Dining in Soho; Marian Fielding reciting her pithy poem The Phlebotomist; and Stella Klein’s London Taxi, 1971 – packed with vivid impressions of arriving in this great city from the antipodes. Ruth Wiggins gave a fine performance of her poem Pulmón de manzana (an Argentinian phrase for city gardens, loosely translating as ‘lung block’), which is also included in her new Emma Press pamphlet, Myrtle. Peter Ebsworth rounded off the night with one of his hilarious Benidorm poems. Benidorm, he assures us, is Soho-on-Sea.
There’s another chance to catch some great London and urban poetry this Thursday 27th November, when Clapham Books, 26 The Pavement SW4 0JA, hosts a South Bank Poetry 19 reading from 7 pm. Hilaire will be flying the London Undercurrents flag, while Joolz sneaks a short break in Vienna. Entry to this event is free. And the magazine itself is an utter bargain at £3.50. Go on, spoil yourself.