March 14th marked the fifth event in the Live Literature calendar, a collaborative project by the University of Bolton and Bolton Central Library to host live readings for the public that showcase the talents of a host of writers. Somewhat fittingly for National Women’s Month, the evening spotlighted the (so far) all-female Pavillion Poetry series published by the University of Liverpool Press.
Beginning the evening was the series editor Deryn Rees-Jones, author of four collections of poetry, including the highly acclaimed Burying the Wren. After opening with the hauntingly beautiful prose piece ‘Siren’, she guided the audience through a menagerie of bird imagery in ‘Collared Doves’ and her two-act piece, ‘A Courtship: Great Crested Grebes and Bowerbirds’, all deftly rendered in sensory technicolour. She finished with ‘IM’, an artful sequence of “disappointed sonnets” taken from her most recent collection, What It’s Like To Be Alive: Selected Poems.
Tasked with following this was Eleanor Rees, lecturer in Creative Writing at Liverpool Hope University and author of Andraste’s Hair, a collection shortlisted for both the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Glen Dimplex New Writer’s Award. Her confident rendition of the rarely-performed, sensual whimsy that is ‘Becoming Miniature’ was more than up to the task. We were then treated to ‘Bidie’s Tomb’ and ‘St. Seiriol’s Well’, unpublished litanies borne of her current
preoccupation with writing about minor holy sites, before being regaled with 2015’s eponymous offering of ‘Blood Child’, an epic about a “red-ice-storm-creature” in search of its mother, punctuated by a harrowing, bloody refrain.
Notable for their innocuous titles, such as ‘Past’ and ‘Romance’, the poems performed by Ruby Robinson displayed both a skilful command of semantics and a surreal originality of syntax. Delivered with a quiet geniality that endeared her to the rapt audience, the touching piece simply titled
‘Apology’ was characteristic of the warmth and honesty present in Every Little Sound: her debut publication which landed her on the 2016 shortlist for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.
Complementing the line-up of published authors was a special guest performance by home-grown talent, the University of Bolton’s own Adam Foley. Exhibiting a knack for intense imagery bested only by the scope of his uniquely comical observations, Foley’s recital of ‘The Universal Sign For I Don’t Want To Talk To You’ and ‘Just For a Moment’ was, typically, delivered in accordance with the audience’s preference.
The final instalment in this series of Live Literature will take place at Bolton Central Library on the 25th of April, featuring performances by flash fiction author David Gaffney and self-proclaimed “poety type” Joey Connolly.
Jeni Mills is a third-year English and Creative Writing student at the University of Bolton.