It was a full house at the very welcoming Greenwich gallery, Made In Greenwich yesterday when I and three of my Ward Wood Publishing colleagues gave our first collective reading together. Like a band on the road, the four of us had a great time and have vowed to do this again in the spirit of The Beatles movie, A Hard Day’s Night.
An idea dreamed up months ago in a conversation at London’s Poetry Café finally came to its very enjoyable conclusion last night in front of a large and encouragingly receptive audience (many of them were poets from the Greenwich area) hosted by the wonderfully informal and enthusiastic Irena Hill, co-owner of the gallery who stepped in at the last minute to replace our publisher, Adele Ward, who had become a victim of the London Underground strike. Thanks, Irena, you were great.
First up was Peter Phillips who fully engaged the audience right from the start with his wryly humourous and yet passionate readings from his two Ward Wood poetry collections, No School Tie and Oscar And I.
The No School Tie poems provide a vivid poet’s impression of a boarding school childhood as well life as a writer, a husband and a grandfather. Then Oscar And I, the confessions of a fictional minor poet George Meadows who experiences all the fragile hopes and stoically received disappointments of any writer’s life but with irony and honesty and humour. If you have read the poems but not heard Peter read them then you’ve missed a treat. Once heard, his voice always sounds in my head when returning to these delightful collections.
Next was American-born but London-based novelist and poet, Sue Guiney who is working on a series of novels set in Cambodia where she has founded a writing workshop for street children in Siem Reap and now spends about two months each year teaching there. Her most recent novel, Out of the Ruins, the second in her Cambodia series, was published by Ward Wood in January.
Sue read from Out Of The Ruins continuing her exploration of what happens when East meets West, in this case when two European doctors set up women’s clinic in Cambodian town of Siem Reap with the passionate assistance of a young Khmer nurse. Sue read this and some of her new Cambodian poems with the real passion and commitment she feels for this much put-upon country. She also read from her Ward Wood poetry collection, Her Life Collected, my latest “loo read” – a collection of wonderfully direct and personal poems that are my current inspiration.
Then there was Joe Stein, Ward Wood’s impressive crime writer, who is much more than that. He is a terrific writer who draws on, amongst other things, his life as an amateur boxer and professional bodyguard. His main character, Garron, is a body-guard with a philosophical soul and an ever-questioning attitude that gives the Garron books their special quality – I would say literary quality if that didn’t sound dull which the books most certainly aren’t.
Joe read from his latest Ward Wood novel, the third in the series, That Twisted Thing Called Truth and then, a special treat for people like me, hooked on what is going to happen next with the intriguing existentialist Garron, Joe read from his new novel, Through Another Night due to be released in October. I can’t wait.
And then there was me, the newest of all the Ward Wood novelists. I read some extracts from my book Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love enjoying the contrast between my hapless young fogey character Stephen and Joe’s much more muscular Garron. Afterwards, Joe and I pondered what it would be like if the two of them met. As Made In Greenwich usually hosts poetry events, I read part of my Fibonacci poetry sequence, Brief Encounters, a work still in-progress, but one day, I hope, a collection in the spirit of the Romantic song cycles by two of my heroes, that I used to sing as a young music student, Schubert’s Winterreise and Schumann’s Dichterliebe.
Peter, Sue, Joe and I are enthusiastic about doing this again. Our work is so contrasted that collectively the readings really do add up to something greater than it’s individual parts. More important than that though, it was fun.