Julia Webb, 2 March, 2020Before launching into Threat,Julia briefed us on her setting for what became a totally absorbing read – small town with communities from different backgrounds merged in uncomfortable proximity. Her own family a London overspill.‘Meet me at Hide Out, Hideyhole, Hidden,our own little kingdom.’‘Bus Station Toilets’ was an arresting start with its wordplay, and complicit teenage wickedness. Through banding and xenophobia, youngsters were initiating their identity, and the poem’s slightly staccato lists of ‘forbiddens’ pulled the audence in. Both first and final readings (‘All the Women’) were supplied with epigraphs, suggesting a good deal of familiarity with current poetry that underlies a superficially ‘easy’ read. Much new poetry is political and a little dry. Julia imbues her politics with surreal overtones to powerful effect.‘but the women, the womenthey are building their bakeries inside me…they are replacing my blood with confectioner’s custardand icing the insides of my breasts’*The theme was not only lucrative, it was employed in a variety of ways. Wiki suggests that Yehuda Amichai (1924-200) was Israel’s greatest modern poet. He is translated in 40 different languages, and his ‘Diameter of the Bomb’ (trans. Ted Hughes ) is a stunning example of how much a poem can say. Thanks to Maureen for this.Elizabeth Bishop was another high-flyer, and one reason for enjoying her poems so much is the touch of humour that can accompany an otherwise devastating argument. Helen read her well-known sestina ‘One Art’.Both Lumleys used humour / black humour. John’s black holes, & zip wires & being scared & generation relationships all in one and a quarter pages of lyric verse (Perceived Threat’). Sally’s ‘Howells Butcher’ contained the hilarious stanza:“Morning Mrs Lumley” He moves a little closer,Luring me onto his wooden chipping bench.Leg or shoulder, or a bit of breast?” ‘In Peter’s ‘The Phone lay curled on itself like a Cat in the Hall’, it’s the juxtaposition of domestic and international that really sparks. Sally H’s riddling ‘What am I’ (which no one solved) ends with a boisterous stanza:‘While ubiquitous I’m unobtrusive So am I sinister? You bet!My insidious encroachment is inclusiveI am a massive threat!’The poem reminds me of a Radio news comment in the last few days that a considerable section of youngsters worry about climate change.I like the unobtrusive rhyming of Bob Ward’s ‘The Beasts’: Quite often.. I fabricate,/ in fancy at the verge of truth,/ a beast, three horned, outside my room / snorting against the matchboard walls. But Briony’s ‘My young heart’ heads the ‘drama’ section with a young-love infatuation that packs a lot of power in its final stanza, each line starting ‘Iheard you…’Evelyn’s ‘On meeting for young men on the allotment path’ .. suggests that even walking past someone can be thick with menace. I wanted to title the poem simply ‘Hello’. John R’s bus-top cogitations composed en route to a Hospital Oncology Dept. with a load of young fellow-travellers, made some deft quatrains from an image a window might have reflected. ‘Gurgling old trout’ is lovely!Michael’s threat was a snake, met when walking in Southern California. ‘That Rattle’ responded well to his additional sound effects. Pippa’s ‘Accidental Death Of A Botanist’ was an almost unbelievable story/poem from Surrey where ‘sandy tracts/ made innocent/ by years of military installations/ might yet reveal/ hidden foliations’A large number of Hardy’s poems would have fit our theme. To hear Nigel reading is always a pleasure.