Feedback on Sally Festing’s Reading, 5 Sept., 2016 A ‘feet off the ground writer’ (UA Fanthorpe) is one of the comments I’d most like to live up to, but the only poetry its impossible to describe is my own. In a poetry world full of hype, Helena Nelson,  poet critic and publisher, vies against the trend for hype. ‘Poetry cannot live up to ubiquitous superlatives. Nor should it have to.’ She called Font an ‘exceptional sequence’, and this to me, is also high praise. The first poem I read was a five-liner that ‘arrived’ before  I knew what it was about. Mostly, you pick up on a few words or a phrase with special relevance, take a short unmeditated spree, then the hard work begins. Maureen brought a poem she began in one of our workshops, proving that exercises sometimes provide the initial impetus. Poets need to keep practising. Our theme (family) encouraged a resounding 15 poems from the floor, the large majority self-penned. Among them, Peter’s ‘Third Week in August’ slid subtly, humorously,  into the intricacy of family relationships.  A mere scatter of words revealed the priorities of childhood’s summer holidays in a south coast resort, with its selected pleasures - pier, cinema and public weighing machine. “Don’t spend it all at once.” The poem is in Peter’s debut collection (Articles of Twinship) chosen by Andrew McMillan. Briony’s ‘At my father’s house’ was another poem from the child’s viewpoint. One in which the title’s repetition in each stanza carried increasing awareness of the different homes between which the child oscillated. The more conventional one, being home for most of the time, gave her a deliciously truculent eye for the other. Pippa also looked at her schoolgirl self with a searching eye, though feelings of ‘differentness’ are almost de rigeur for poets. ‘Schooldays’ was published in Solo Prominences by The Finger Press. Orlando Edmond’s contribution, read by Dominic (‘Samsung SNP-5430’), was a clever skit about nothing so much as instructions and the ridicules they offer in a digital age. Moving to a more mature perspective, Jim Ring’s ‘Time’s Gavel’ was an adult reflection on the passage of time realised chiefly through the changes in two children. Rhymed couplets all the way from ‘the time when the pair of them were only a glint in my eye’ to a consideration of ‘a girl who’s now a woman, and a boy in manhood cast’. Our theme also dug out uncomfortable elements. In Gill Smith’s poem for instance,  the protagonist was disinclined to investigate the family tree for fear of what might be revealed.  Doubtless every family harbours the greed and aggression that is closely tied in with competitive survival. Tessa’s ‘Sisters’, with its funereal first line, also carried undertones of what swims beneath the surface of family relationship. ‘We wear black at our vernissage’ – I’ve learned a fine word - ‘vernissage’. Both Jill Bentley and Polly’s poems were written from grandparental stands. Jill’s was  a christening oration for a grandson born on a Nordic island (in a rust-red house).  Pol’s eight little ones shared a tent in her garden. When the tent was taken down, its imprint on the lawn made a metaphor for all the exchanges in colours picked up by a camera. Evelyn brought another poem from a Surrey gaol she visits. A prisoner who found life-changing affirmation in the birth of a real or a fictional son, simultaneously celebrated the work of those who foster art and writing projects in our overcrowded gaols. Mike read Charles Causley’s ‘Timothy Winters’. My own offspring loved Causley’s  weirdness but this poem also speaks of the big divide in society that has grown since it was written.  Lewis Carol’s ‘Mad Gardener’s Song’ was Nigel’s choice. Animal take centre stage. I don’t think it was intended to fit the theme excepting that the protagonist mistook his sister’s husband’s niece for a buffalo. Animals featured again from Billy Collins’ ‘Reincarnation and you’, chosen by Carla on the 8 th  anniversary of Bernard’s death, partly because he annotated the poem. Essentially, it concerns death, ‘a zoo in a lost city, one  that can be entered or left only by crossing a range of mountains covered with deep snow, all year round.’ The point is how we avoid dwelling on the reality.