Reading aloud in the Barbican Library

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The launch for Brittle Star issue 36 in the Barbican Library on Wednesday evening was very well attended, and warmly hosted by Jacqueline Gabbitas and Martin Parker.

We’re delighted to have two poems published in this issue, and were excited to have the opportunity to read in the iconic Barbican venue. The magazine itself is a handsome object and contains a great mix of poetry, short fiction, articles and reviews. As for the Barbican Library, once Joolz had dragged herself away from the display of Elvis memorabilia, we revelled in the warm acoustics, comfortably spaced seats and the prospect of reading surrounded by shelves of over-sized reference books. Not to mention the rather quaint looking listening booths!

Robin Houghton was first up to read, impressively performing two of her poems from memory: To Turn a Perfect Cartwheel, published in Brittle Star, and Ellipsis, a bittersweet poem about playing Scrabble with her mother in the last year of her life. Ian McEwen read several entertaining poems from a sequence he’s writing in the voice of refrigerators – we kid you not.  A Tent on the Greenland Ice Sheet is Kate Taylor’s first published poem but surely won’t be her last. Her found poem, Managed Funds, using phrases from the Financial Times, was hilariously absurd, as was another poem about a colleague who stores all sorts of items in her bra. To end the first half of the evening, Ruth Brandt gave an assured reading of her Krakow-set story The Chair.

There was more fiction in the second half, with Stewart Foster reading The Trampoline from Brittle Star – short but packing quite an emotional punch – and an extract from his forthcoming novel. Kathy Pimlott’s poems, drawn from memories of her grandmother Enid, were both touching and funny. Her Emma Press pamphlet, due out in 2016, should be one to look out for. Last but not least, Jonny Wiles performed his poems with a certain amount of swagger.

And our London Undercurrents set? We were on straight after the break, Hilaire leading in from south of the river with a poem listing the ailments of a woman picking lavender from the fields that covered Battersea before industrialisation. Joolz followed with a poem in the voice of a Suffragette enduring force-feeding in Holloway Prison. We read both the poems published in Brittle Star: Thames Freeze by Joolz, inspired by the last days of the frost fairs and exploring the themes of bridging the gap between north and south, and between Lady and Lady’s maid. And Hilaire’s poem: Lady Cyclist, inspired by the cycling craze amongst middle and upper class women in the summer of 1895, when Battersea Park became their favourite haunt for practising this risqué activity. We finished with a ‘one-woman car hire firm’ speeding around Clapham in 1947, and a punk confronting ‘you robots‘ on her way to see The Pistols at the Hope and Anchor in Islington.

Big thank-you’s to Jacqueline Gabbitas and Martin Parker co-editors of Brittle Star, Stonewood Press and everyone who read and attended.

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