Saturday, November 02, 2013

Words Over Walthamstow

It's not every day the Poet Laureate pops into the 'stow for a gig, so I was hasty about getting my ticket, even though I am no poetry aficionado. Her visit came courtesy of the new "words festival", Words Over Waltham Forest.

Carol Ann Duffy's name has reached even my ears, and I was curious as to how I would find an evening of her work in the company of musician John Sampson. What did that even mean?

Well, it worked out surprisingly well. A short stroll to the Assembly Hall, which I have never visited. Quite an impressive space, even though, peeping through the open doors, I thought it was set up for a Christmas pageant. Sampson warmed us up with some comic woodwinding before Duffy read from The World's Wife, her collection of poems taking on the personae of various other halves to famous men. Very witty it was, too, with her dry asides drawing warm laughter from the audience of about 700.

Sampson returned for brief comic sets, while the poet, suffering from a cold, relaxed her pipes in a comfy chair before returning for more readings from her collections, including the most recent, The Bees.

Kudos, too, to the opening act, Warsan Shire, the new Young Poet Laureate of London. At first I found her delivery too understated and quiet, but quickly realised the power of her words as she warmed up, offering deceptively simple comments that added up to mostly unspoken horror stories about living in a war zone and as a refugee. The woman in front of me buried her head in her hands and wiped away tears.

A bit of everything. Not bad for a Saturday night. And I was home in 10 minutes. Bliss.

Words Over Waltham Forest continues through 17 November.

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