Sue Burge, 07.10. 2019
Sue’s first poem adopted the filmic imagery of a viewer ‘And me, caught in the projector’s dancing beam,/ lips parted, wanting it / dark, dark, dark’ (‘Gothic’). Nine poems later, still in her first collection, In The Kingdom of the Shadows (2018, Live Canon), she was close to Hadrian’s Wall in a tent. There she dwelt on Roman legionaries spitting cherry stones  that became  the metaphorical blossoms of history. Place was always important - she covered a lot of ground in between. Often we were conscious of movement, be it from an owl in flight or from ‘Ladies’ spreading bread ‘with holy spiders’ (Marsh Fever); movement  that intensified small imagistic worlds. Invariably, the poems were set in places she  had visited. More than one was inspired by the tight, bright setting of a museum exhibit. Several were eulogies that made tributes to people Sue admired. These included the ballet-dancer Bryce who died of aids, and Judy Garland in the memorably-titled ‘I’m not wearing Chanel for the radio’. I think most of us would agree that the highlight of the evening was hearing Nigel read another of Sue’s title-telling poems, ‘In Which a Middle-Aged Woman in Primark Jeans Denies Her Invisibility’. He read with expressive French diction, and as suggested, ‘in a breathless rush’. Pamphlet readings were from Lumière (Hedgehog Press) which  came out of a cinematic residency in Paris in 2016,  when the legacy of the Terror Attacks was still around. They were playfully handled. The reading ended with a couple of  poems based in East-Anglia where ‘The ebbing tide pulls at the salt / in my blood’.   * Most readings from the floor were chosen to fit our theme of light and dark. Much as we’d have preferred to hear Mike read Fleur Adcock’s ‘Incident’, her gift for dealing so casually, even humorously, with life and death, took us to the absent Hall-Smiths. The only other published poems were a couple of Charles Causleys brought by Peter S. And ‘Timothy Winter’ was a true contender. Once again we had sparks of humour  with the ballad-form desolation of a small child for whom nothing was easy, despite which, ‘Timothy Winters roars AMEN’. ‘He was a real bloke, poor little devil’, the poet said with a dig at post-war child psychology. Maureen’s war, managed to escape adult horrors. Instead, she climbed a tree and watched an egg hatch; both watcher and chick moving into light. Bob Ward’s ‘A Light Matter’ brought us into a contemporary world with a Black Hole’s trapped light that seemed to be ‘angels dancing / quantum quadrilles’. Sally L’s ’Essence of Dark and Night’ travelled through diurnal variations in a visual way. ‘Now every morning / Light made visible / Essence of all things.’ Alice’s ‘Light & Dark: Doubts over Metaphor’ was our only systematically rhymed offering. Cogently agued in quatrains, it ended wittily ‘Must we keep linking all progress with sunshine; / Why must we banish soft velvety night’. Evelyn’s ‘The Ship of The Fens’ rhymed spasmodically. It was based her on the story of Ely Cathedral’s fourteenth century storm- demolished tower. The Cathedral, of course, survives. Thus ‘Darkest of nights’ becomes Light’. I don’t think Anne’s ‘Salon’ or Peter W’s ‘The Whistlekettle Wedding’ were written to theme. Although there was physical darkness in ‘Salon’, created by the salon’s owner’s choice of furnishings in his trendy Chelsea Hairdressers. And light was  provided by the ‘coat of canary yellow fur’ worn by a customer when leaving ‘sultry henna twists laid on top ..’  Peter’s poem was about precisely what its title predicted, the story of a couple who waited almost 50 years before deciding to legalize their match. We were spoiled by a large spread of mouth-watering canapés from Evelyn.