Over the last few years I’ve been to a number of poetry readings at the Albion Beatnik bookshop in Jericho, Oxford. The proprietor, Dennis Harrison, puts in some very long hours to support poetry in the city. With any luck, he makes a small profit from door money and interval drinks, but really, he does it for the love of literature and his loyal bookish community.
I wanted to read there before I disappear northwards, so I asked three friends to join me, and Dennis agreed to us holding a reading called “The Poetry of Place”. Places are on my mind at the moment, because of our imminent departure north (I say “imminent” but we still haven’t exchange contracts on the house.) So I read about Stoke on Trent, Belfast, Newcastle, Boston, Ukraine, Henley on Thames and Nettlebed; Andrew Smardon read about Oxford, Scotland, Iceland, and being on the motorway; Annette Volfing read about Denmark, England and Africa, and Ben Parker, who had said he didn’t really write about places, gave us a travelogue of wonderful imagined destinations.
Over the last few years I have been in poetry workshops with each of these poets, and it’s a real joy to hear poems that I first saw as drafts, all polished and beautiful at the reading. They sounded wonderful, and it was great to see so many friends in the audience; particularly members of Oxford Stanza II, and my former teacher, Olivia Byard.
Reading at the Albion Beatnik – another item crossed off my bucket list.