In our books, there is perhaps no finer day of celebration than National Poetry Day. And this year, we were thrilled to mark the day with a lunchtime event in association with Victoria University Press. Seven VUP poets performed for crowd that grew and grew as the readings went on – across the store, people could be seen turning their attention from cookbooks and photography collections to the writers at the mic.
Kate Camp was first up, sharing anecdotes and backstories between the poems that she read. After one particularly sombre piece, she commented that a friend had once told her ‘your poetry is so dark and you have such a sunny disposition’, prompting Kate to read a slightly more up-beat poem as follow-up. Emily Dobson followed, reading a poem by Mary Ruefle as well as several of her own works from her latest collection The Lonely Nude.
Caoilinn Hughes continued the session in fine form, despite flying in from overseas the night before. She received an extra round of applause after it was pointed out by the MC (Unity’s own Matt Bialostocki) that she was about to head off to defend her PhD thesis and was therefore deserving a little bit of extra oomph to her send-off. Helen Heath – formerly of Unity – took it upon herself to add a little competition to the event, reading a poem about telescopes to challenge Caoilinn’s poem on the same topic, and similarly decided to read ‘my boob poem’ to match Emily’s piece that referred to bums in the sand. Let it never be said that poetry is only highbrow!
Maria McMillan’s first full collection, Tree Space was launched earlier this year, and she read several pieces from the collection, as well as from her chapbook The Rope Walk. She spoke about interviewing a tightrope walker for the piece and discovering the fear that still feeds each performance. The audience was then lucky enough to get a sneak peak at Frances Samuel’s debut collection Sleeping on Horseback, not due for general release until September. After recurring science-focused poetry from several of the performers, Frances led a switch to the farm, with Marty Smith continuing the trend with her readings, which concluded the ‘official’ proceedings.
Everything wrapped up with a Louise Wrightson – poet and former manager of the shop in the Perret’s Corner incarnation of Unity – reading a snippet from a poem celebrating the joys of the bookshop, written by John Ash and left for her by Nigel Cox (‘bless his socks’) for when she took over the reins.
See some photos below! (reviewed by Briar Lawry, all photographs © Matt Bialostocki)