Travelling, then arriving: bookshop reading celebrates different paths to poetry
A poetic journey that began in the streets of Lambeth on a sun-soaked Halloween day last autumn ended in a travel bookshop on Friday night, when poets who had taken part in a series of workshops read some of the work that had been created.
The walking tour had taken in the London Necropolis Railway; Hercules Road where William Blake had lived; the Imperial War Museum, once home to the inmates of Bedlam; and Captain Bligh’s moss-covered tomb. The workshop was billed as the Poem of the Street, but inevitably became better known as the Lambeth Walk, and was run by poet and tutor Tamar Yoseloff - pictured explaining a landmark - and designer and photographer Vici MacDonald, co-founders of small press Hercules Editions, and collaborators on Formerly, a joint exploration of disappearing London in sonnets and photographers that was nominated for the Ted Hughes award.
Three more workshops have been run by Hercules authors since then: on how to write a horror poem, with Claire Crowther; the poetry of memoir and ancestry (Hannah Lowe); and Writing Absence, Praising Presence (Sue Rose). I was one of those that walked the streets of Lambeth - and I also attended Sue Rose’s stimulating and productive class - and can only say that, having heard the readings and recollections at the Travelling Through bookshop at Lower Marsh, near Waterloo station, I wish I had been to the other two workshops as well.
The “workshop poem” may have some detractors, but one of the joys of writing and listening to poetry, for me, is that it can be such a communal activity, a feeling that was certainly present and celebrated on Friday night. These Hercules sessions facilitated creativity, rather than prescribing certain forms, or indeed proscribing others. You can check out for yourself some of the poems produced in the workshops here and here.
There was a moment of sadness at Friday's reading, when Tamar Yoseloff paid tribute to Kenneth Hyam, one of last October’s Lambeth walkers, who died recently. The evening was dedicated to Kenneth, whose long prose poem, ‘Dry Spell’, put together in the bookshop after the walk, was read out on Friday. It includes these lines: “The Fleet ran dry and the Thames retreated back to the edges of Lower Marsh. Then the deluge came, days and nights of it, streams of it, buckets of it, tureens and swimming baths of it … Nowadays hardly anyone notices that they are existing beneath the waves.”