Poetry evenings can be rather somnolent affairs, but at this one a gauntlet was thrown down: be harder on poetry.
In the post-reading discussions Don Paterson, Sophie Hannah and Hannah Lowe took some targeted shots at an ironic trend in verse, and the preponderance of creative writing courses. It was hardly a call to arms – these things are much more polite – but one might ask are these the right musketeers for the fight?
Paterson definitely is, hewn from hard Scottish rock and with a warm confidence in his delivery. His pen flexes from cuttingly funny tributes to his native Dundee to metaphysical elegy. Most of all his poems are from someone comfortable in their skin.
Sophie Hannah’s show less tonal variance, with more of an observational whimsy than a verbal kick. They entertain, but for all her mentions of fighting talk on Twitter, there was little punch.
Hannah Lowe seems to know a thing or two about scraping though. Her work is of a place – a mostly grim Ilford – and personal and visceral. There are guts and vulnerabilities here.
I don’t think poetry’s about to take a beating.