Nina reflects on the opening event of Verve 2018.
Launching with the Poetry Parlour, Verve got off to a stunning start. Introduced by Cynthia Miller the Parlour had a warm and inviting atmosphere, she invited us to ‘chill, lie back and listen’. A packed room enjoyed the first step into the weekend.
It started with an open mic section which saw established and up and coming poets as well as undiscovered local talent. This is exactly what Verve set out to do and it is always great to see newcomers at the festival.
Jane Commane and Imtiaz Dharker took to the stage, watching two Bloodaxe Poets in conversation was a real treat. Jane shared her love of Imtiaz’s poetry – after reading a poem in the paper over a decade ago, her mum bought her ‘A Terrorist at My Table’ and she has been a fan ever since. Following an insightful introduction, Jane encouraged us to make space on our Top 10 Poets lists and to make space on our bookshelves too.
Imtiaz Dharker’s reading was magical. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the selection of poems. Her use of rhythm and language, her touches of gentle humour, the tales of where the poems had come from and how the writing evolved. Imtiaz shared parts of her childhood, growing up in Scotland, how using form (Sonnet) enabled her to finish a poem which had proved tricky. Those poems that are hard to write are something poets know all about. I watched a few people scribbling her ‘gold dust’ down. It was a generous sharing of knowledge and experience.
Following the reading there was a Q&A with Jane. These are always exceptional, Jane (and I don’t know how she does it… a mix of experience, wisdom and some magic of her own) composes the most brilliant questions and skillfully leads the conversation. There was talk of the thread running through Imtiaz’s work and what impact that had on compiling the collection. Imtiaz talked about the echo and how you naturally find connections between poems.
“The themes/threads come to your fingers, your mind and tongue.” – Imtiaz Dharker.
The Poetry Parlour closed with a final poem. Referred to by Jane Commane as a ‘poetry nightcap’. Imtiaz certainly writes end-lines to take your breath away. It is no surprise that she is the winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal and that Carol Ann Duffy suggests she would be the World Laureate, if such a title existed.
The end of it was like coming out of a meditation which you did not want to leave. I think we all agreed we could have listened to her poetry all night. Cynthia Miller got it spot on with ‘absolutely enchanting.’
Afterwards finding Imtiaz’s collections was easy, Verve are streets ahead with bookseller organisation, of course they are, they are based in Waterstones! The Festival books are all shelved together, right beside the till point and after you have your treasure in hand the book signing table is right next to the counter. Reading poetry after you have heard it from the poet is incredibly satisfying and Imtiaz’s voice will linger in my head for some time.
The Poetry Parlour was a pleasant, soft entry into what is sure to be another storming festival for the Verve Team.