Moniza Alvi, feedback, 4 September, 2017Moniza’s poetry has a way of encapsulating emotion without trying too hard. It’s pared back, simple in essence and always clear. She began by speaking to ‘Father Bird’, otherwise her deceased father, in his afterlife. Asking questions she had missed, and dwelling on possible explanations. A surreal element makes them, as I said in my introduction, dance on the rim of reality. Elsewhere, the natural world came alive, sometimes in almost throw-away lines about relationship that have, in their place, a deep resonance. ‘What does the feather say to the grass?Well, nothing at all.And yet there is a conversation.’Her poems inspired by the paintings of a Mexican-Spanish surrealist, Remedios Varro gave us exotic birds ‘muffled /beyond endurance’ by winter’s deprivation. ‘The Empty Nest’ could also be a child’s bedroom. ‘Is there really such a thing // as a new life? ie, after leaving home.*Our theme (‘Lines’) sparked almost half the thirteen readings from the floor, picking up on its various interpretations listed by Maureen as ‘Queues, rails, routes, shipping, material, form, school punishment, an actor’s part, and fishing’ etc.‘The line is mainly intellectual’ began Mike H-S’s offering by Diana Bishop (‘Drawing the Line’). This time, the relationship was between a child and a grandparent. While Dominic’s version of Koko’s song from the Mikado was an anarchic take on the ills of both local and international relevance, Pol’s ‘Lines’ explored the multiplicity that she had scored, or that had crossed her path. She also considered the short line. After all, ‘two minuses /will make a plus’ / and spun sideways, they’re a kiss!Michael C’s villanelle, ‘The shortest line between two points is a straight line’ needs to be seen on a page to elucidate its turns. I also found Michael Symmons-Roberts’ ‘Mancunian Miserere’ difficult to absorb at a first hearing. But it’s a lovely self-castigating prayer, worth printing out from The Guardian website. Carla’s choice.Pippa’s aptly titled ‘Private View’ was, by contrast, immediately accessible. What a fine first line ‘Sensible girls go nowhere’! Peter’s ‘Gun Hill’ was a 7-minute exercise at a poetry course. It sounded like an authentic record and quite fooled me. ‘But actually, it was the moon / came down low, and shouted / at fishermen …’We heard John Masefield; Kipling’s ‘Lukannon’ in rousing fortissimo, and Matthew Arnold, whose Dover Beach dropped me with a plop into an 11 or 12-year self. Poems can do this, like music, or just a smell.*Moniza’s second reading came from At the Time of Partition. The time when a British lawyer was asked to divide British-ruled India into independent nations. The ‘Radcliffe Line’ caused turmoil and trauma. Moniza’s story is all the more poignant for its internal overtones of private pain that such a decision made.