Feedback, Andrea Holland, 5 June 2017
Home and Neighbourhood was a thought-provoking theme and Andreas’ first poem (‘Weightless’) dropped us straight into them; her own neighbourhood as it happens. Each phrase brought us closer to the ‘incessant trampolining’ of ‘shouty pug-faced daughters, / with their somersaults, Lutz jumps and tiny / triple axels’ ( ice-skating images, lovely!). Even when neighbours resist communication, light messages like TV reflections in windows offer tacit mutual acknowledgment. ‘The Close’ was densely packed and visual; a twelve-line request to the Natural World of wind, worms and starlings that so effortlessly accompanies, the turn of human life. ‘Float’ was a poem about the milk-bottle deliveries that are almost a thing of the past – ‘all bubbled froth at the boy’s lip.’ A villanelle  is a tight form. (A 19-line poem in tercets followed by one quatrain, with two repeated rhymes.) Whist she was aware of the model, Andrea took a license in her poem about Hepworth (‘On Not Writing a Villanelle’). ‘I was really interested about the idea of form’ she said in a reading full of enlightened comment. ‘Its relevance, for how things get made; a woman forming a sculpted horse, a bee creating honey, a poet trying to make a villanelle. Such different things: stone, pollen, words/refrain, but out of each of these comes something extraordinary.’ Even before she moved to poems from her chapbook (Broadcasting), we were intrigued by the story of requisitioned villages invaded by the Military during WWII. What had life in them been like, and what did the loss of home mean to people  casually deported? Incursions into tight-knit communities  with their maypole dances revealed how loss ran through the teeth of every little bunny that formed a major part of the resident’s wartime diet, ‘a little gritty off the bone’. It was the detail of these imagined lives that gave the poems credence. * Among poems from the floor was Yeats’ unforgettable ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’. Once again, precise detail (nine bean-rows) contributes to the larger landscape. There’s the ‘free-dom’ implied in the place name, and four throbbing single-syllable words in its final line (hear, deep, heart’s, love). In Ian Serraillier’s ‘Anne and the Field-mouse’, the landscape is reduced to a picnic spot in a chalk quarry where a mouse ‘melts’ into nettles. In Dannie Abse’s ‘Not Adlestrop’ unpremeditated gestures make a story so strong that place becomes incidental. (‘the name / hardly matters.’) Bernard Gilbert’s The Fen’ was written 100 years ago and its chorus ‘The waters roam no more’ is full of his longings (in rhymed- couplets), to return to the countryside of his birth. Pippa caught a medley of edgy family memories, each one different in tone; deep-felt nuggets, ‘but oh! how it (communal life) beat us.  A plangent honesty. Polly’s ‘World’s End’ homed in on a rustic family escape at ‘the top of the field’, where timeless play and closeness to the earth, sprung a sensibility of rightness. Keith’s ‘Frankfield’ also used the word ‘content’. His conversational lines drew on memories of school- mastering in Jamaica. ‘Not a reflective place, Just warm skin and the rustle of banana groves, Punctuated by clamour, up on the hill Where school is school And teachers do crochet in the staffroom.’ My ‘Dreaming Cat’ was really a what-if poem. ‘If cats could swim’, though cat and the Staithe and water and boats fitted the home theme. Peter’s ‘Croissant’ was unashamedly a love poem, witty and winning. I won’t eat a croissant again without thinking of ‘Its