Tutors Mimi Khalvati and Tamar Yoseloff showcase Poetry School pupils

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Mimi Khalvati and Tamar Yoseloff are esteemed poets, and highly inspirational poetry tutors as well, judging from the expertise and affection displayed by some of their Poetry School students who read at the Troubadour in London on Monday night.

Khalvati, pictured, co-founded the Poetry School with Jane Duran and Pascale Petit in 1997. Originating in London, the Poetry School – now open for bookings for its spring courses - has grown into the only major national organisation whose sole focus is teaching the art of writing poetry.

On Monday night we heard from 20 poets, from those making their public reading debuts to others who, in Tamar Yoseloff’s words, “ have been working with me for 10 years – they’re real pros!”. The readers included an Eric Gregory award winner, and a former editor of Magma. The subjects varied from knitting, Virginia Woolf and breakfast, to agonising waits at airports, and two DH Lawrence characters from Sons and Lovers walking along the muddy riverbank of the Trent.

Sandra Galton delivered a moving “specular” poem, a form invented by the poet Julia Copus, in which each line of the poem is repeated, but in reverse order, from the halfway mark. Paul Armitage’s considered reflection on marriage, ‘The Unbroken Bowl’, provided a contrast with Eve Ellis’s more light-hearted ‘First Condom’. I could detect my own latent air rage, never far from the surface, during Andrew George’s airport poem:  “Line by line the screens are going blank.” ‘Ghetto van Gogh’ by Inua Ellams, a successful playwright as well as poet, concerned a son’s last words to his mother before his hanging, and startled his audience.

Many of the poems started as assignments or prompts, and included at least one ghazal, an ancient Persian form of poetry made more widely known by Tehran-born Mimi Khalvati. Three of the poets who read came from Buddhist communities.

Tamar Yoseloff read a number of her own poems, including several from her collection Formerly, a sequence of 14 irregular sonnets that was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes award in 2012, with photographs from her Hercules Editions co-publisher Vici MacDonald of forgotten corners of a fast-disappearing London. Newer poems included ‘The Little Ice Age’, describing a people making merry on the ice, and no one wishing for spring, with its “sentimental blooms and twittering birds”.  

Mimi Khalvati read a number of poems from her latest collection The Weather Wheel. Her poems included one about a yellow ladybird ‘Reading the Saturday Guardian’; another about a grandson and his pet rat; ‘Nocturne’, with parked cars “sleeping like animals in their baskets;” and ‘Cherries and Grapes’:  “Being so tall, my son has eyes like fruit in a tree.”

Hailing the talent on display at the Troubadour, Coffee-House Poetry host Anne-Marie Fyfe also greeted Tamar Yoseloff, who fronted a poetry reading series at the Troubadour in the 1990s, “on a trip down memory lane”.  

The evening was completed by talented young singer-guitarist Rosie Taylor, either side of the break. And that’s not all – Rosie was offered words of encouragement after her performance from one Troubadour audience member, who also happened to be the legendary guitarist Jimmy Page.

The full list of readers: Juliet Humphreys, Sandra Galton, Eve Ellis, Paul Armitage, Liz Devereaux, Helen Overell, Marilyn Hammick, Karen Littleton, Andrew George, Susan Watson, Samantha Jackson, Vishvantara, Matt Bryden, Judith Cair, Dharmavadana, Saradha Soobrayen, Mark McGuinness, Subhadramati, Inua Ellams, Kate Ling.  


Greg Freeman




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