Feedback from Julia Webb’s Reading, November, 2016
Using magic, fairy tales, interchanges with animal forms, anaphora and other kinds of repetition, Julia creates an uncanny strangeness in her parallel worlds. ‘All is strange or estranged’ writes George Szirtes, ‘but it is articulated in poems of subtle, inventive concentration. In that sense, Bird Sisters is a book that casts deep shadows.’ Shadows underlay much wit, playfulness, energy and originality in a reading much enjoyed by all.‘I have forgotten my password to you’. This poem speaks about an attempt to foil the frustration that lies behind a lot of the work. Life is often frustrating! especially in childhood. Arresting, frequently surreal, images return over and again to journeys of discovery, that concern dysfunctional familiesRapport with Julia’s largely transformative poems spun into a record fourteen from the floor, six of them from established sources. The celestial bodies appear adjectivally as Sun Daddy and Star Children, and ‘The moon never knows which country it is in’. Another way of calling on the heavenly bodies is illustrated by Hopkins’ ‘Starlight Night’, with its disturbed cry for Christ. ‘Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies.’ This old favourite was brought along by George.Gill read Neruda’s concern for people unable to access the imagination (‘The Poet’s Obligation’). ‘How can I reach the sea?’ chimed with one of Julia’s most internal poems ‘Like a baby dandled /on the knee of the sea / his shores cry North, North.’ (Old Man Norfolk)Mike’s ‘Janet Waking’ by the American John Crowe Ransom travells in and out of death with great delicacy, via the animal kingdom. It’s good to be brought up-to-date with the New Yorker, the source of Carla’s ‘Itch’, subsequently renamed ‘The Flea’s Retort’, by Alan Jenkins. The poem is such fun that I hope it returns in December. The same goes for Hilda’s hilarious 21st-century version of a classic tale (My friend Daphne).In an untitled poem, Evelyn brought sisterhood to a small circle of trees. Keith brought the depredation and despair of WW1 close to home in an almost sonnet (Photograph of a Norfolk Farm – 1916). Polly saw our marshes eternally transformed in ‘chameleon shades’.John used three voices in one of his mini plays set round the concept that Gravity bends light. A pretty teenage girl sat on the new wall outside the Hero, I was with him here, but am afraid the scientific argument was beyond me. Pippa’s ‘That Old Path’ was a nostalgic view of a youthful episode pierced by another casual memory. Peter’s ‘Novelty Race’ found the twins shackled by their inside legs in a running race. ‘Naturally’, they achieve their sporting triumph!