Friday, December 08, 2006

I met Ifor Thomas at a reading in London this week. He began his set with a poem about cling film that had the audience rolling around. But it wasn't all laughs. He also read from his compelling book, Body Beautiful, based on his experience being treated for prostate cancer.

His poems, like those of Julia Darling in Apologies for Absence and the work of Brighton-based poet Bernadette Cremin who's written about her experience in a neurological ward, should be read widely. They're immediate, accessible, they add an important dimension to debates about patients and hospitals.

The venue in Tottenham Hale's called The Room. It looks like a terraced house, then you go in - to a beautiful tango studio, mirrored wall, light wood floor. It's run by Anthony Howell and Richard Tyrone Jones - Anthony's also a tango dancer. Neither of them was dressed as Father Christmas, but Richard had a nice reflective jacket and noisy watch.

The pace and the standard was set high by Musa Okwonga, who opened - and what a scorching poem he read about a young gay man coming out to his Ugandan family. Musa's work is taut, rhythmic and rhymed in the long tradition of English political satire. Hard to follow, but follow I did and it was fun to read some new work mixed in with poems from Party and Fever Tree, ending with the very new Love Song for Fidel Castro.

Free mulled wine all night, so I was able to take full advantage of that, once my reading was over and I could lounge back on floor cushions for Rhian Edwards, a young performance poet who read, among others, a grisly piece about cooking a lover and eating him. It was gruesome.

Then of course, Ifor. A star. And off to the pub because there was just not enough mulled wine left in the orange segments at the bottom of the pan to satisfy that post reading thirst for more alcohol and, more importantly, gossip. For the first time in many, many years, I saw a bottle of Mateus Rose on the bar. I was talking to someone about Mateus Rose recently. The wines of our youth and our parents. Well, some of us, the over fifties, that is.

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