Tour Recap – Liverpool
On Tuesday 28 October, the University of Liverpool’s School of English graciously hosted a Next Generation Poets 2014 tour event in the stunning new surroundings of their School of the Arts Library on Abercromby Square. Opening the show was new Liverpool PhD student, Seán Hewitt, who brought his ethereal poetry to a large audience. There is a richness to Seán’s writing and a concern with how myth and landscape permeate contemporary thinking. In a remarkable sequence describing a man falling in love with an oak tree, Hewitt’s imagery provided an eerie, magical start to the evening: ‘All the wood’s beetles scuttle up my body, like an oil spill rewound’.
In her second reading in two nights on the Next Generation Poets 2014 tour, Melissa Lee-Houghton grew with the confidence of the large crowd, and performed an entirely different set from the previous evening. This time, leading with poems about touch, sensation and numbness – “Sometimes, I think numbness a worse condition than agony” – Melissa’s stark, confessional poems reduced some audience members to tears. Excitingly, the poet also read from a new work, an honest and explicit prose poem, which demonstrates further Lee-Houghton’s unerring gift for writing affecting and scintillating poetry.
We were lucky to have the University of Liverpool’s Professor of Poetry, Deryn Rees-Jones opening the second half. Reading a series of short poems from her previous books, Rees-Jones encourages us to ‘start now with the smallest things’ in poems which focus on birds, slugs, lanterns and tattoos, but explore so much more by their climax. Speaking about her place on the 2004 Next Generation Poets list, she said that insecure poets are “glad to know someone is along with them”, and she certainly had the Liverpool audience along with her poems at every step.
Finishing the evening was a typically effervescent Luke Kennard, who entertained and delighted the crowd as much with his asides as with his poetry. Reading surreal pieces from across his books, the characters in Kennard’s poetry are berated by choirs, working in nut factories or are tasked with conducting hard-hitting news interviews with waves and fire. That Kennard’s reputation is “shoved down your throat” – or so an online commenter would have it – prompted a thought that seemed a helpful window into the poet’s mind. If ‘reputation’ had a physical manifestation, Kennard likes to think, “it would be meringue or mango – so that even if it was shoved down your throat, it would be a pleasant experience”, a unique, humorous and textured way of thinking, which is surely one of many reasons why judges named Luke Kennard a Next Generation Poet 2014.