Bolton Library’s Live Literature event returned on the 27th February by welcoming performances from two inspiring Sheffield-based poets. From the apocalyptic wonderings of the award-winning poet, Suzannah Evans, to the celebration of Ben Wilkinson’s debut collection, Way More Than Luck, audience members were treated to an evening of witty, emotive and lyrical poetry.
The ‘Beast from the East’ snow storm did not stand in the way for the two poets, with determined members of the public battling Bolton’s freezing weather in order to fill the room. Sufficiently warmed with wine and biscuits, audience members were able to fully appreciate the humorous yet troubling themes that took centre stage without focusing too much upon their numb toes.
Suzannah Evans, winner of the 2011 Book and Pamphlet Competition chosen by Carol Ann Duffy, for her pamphlet, Confusion Species, took to the stage first and entertained the audience with witty anecdotes that form the basis of her poetry. With stories of robotic bees failing to complete their programmed missions, to the government’s questionable decision to cut down trees in her home town of Sheffield, Evans was able to provide the audience with some invaluable context behind her powerful verses.
Drawing on the future of humanity, Evans’ poetry focuses upon an impending apocalypse, in which she described as an ‘awkward handover’ between humans and robots. ‘The Handover’, one of her readings from the night, harmoniously encapsulated these key themes, through its exploration of artificial intelligence physically replacing humanity. Evans’ subtle use of repetitive diction in the poem, namely the word ‘killing’, provided her stance on the topic without so obviously stating it. This was arguably mirrored in Evans’ calm and subdued performance of her poetry; her light-hearted demeanour towards such an intense topic drew the audience in like a robotic bee to pollen.
After more than twelve years in the making, audience members were treated to a one-day preview of Ben Wilkinson’s debut poetry collection, Way More Than Luck, before it was published by Seren Books. The collection explores the sensitive topic of depression, the redemptive qualities of long distance running and the art and beauty of the well-loved sport, football. Wilkinson’s approach to the highly stigmatized topic of depression, in particular, has to be applauded for its lyrical urgency. Drawing on Churchill’s well-known ‘black dog’ metaphor for depression, ‘Hound’, one of the many readings from the evening, portrays a sense of hopefulness in dealing with the ‘faithful pet / it pretends to be’. This beautifully crafted poem not only provides a doorway into understanding how important the collection is to Wilkinson himself, but how it could impact others that struggle with mental health.
The focus upon the complexities of football further on in the collection, with several poems dedicated to the ‘greats’ of Liverpool Football Club, such as John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish (who features on the cover), delivers an element of light-hearted relief. Wilkinson’s subtle humour throughout this section of the collection appeal to not only those who already have an interest within the sport, but those who do not follow it at all.
It is safe to say that Bolton Library’s Live Literature has kicked off to a fantastic start for 2018.
Katie Wolstencroft is a second-year English and Creative Writing student at the University of Bolton.