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Thursday, 24 May 2007

Notting Hill Poetry Reading: Best Ever?

I read a poem last night with a stellar group of writers, performers, journalists, media and other UK celebrity figures as part of a special fundraiser, Pass On A Poem at the Oxfam Bookshop, 170 Portobello Road. Pass On A Poem is the brainchild of Frances Stadlen.

I think it was arguably (despite the muggy conditions) one of the most remarkable (and perhaps most eccentric) gatherings to read poems (by others) in British history, given as it represented major facets of English cultural predominance, such as pop music, Darwinian science, acting, detective fiction, poetry editing, politics, modelling and newsreading - and in a very trendy setting.

Those who read included the great radio and TV presenter, Joan Bakewell, pictured, Alex James, writer and former bass player with Blur, Craig Raine, the father of the Martian School of poetry, Fiona Shaw, Irish actress (currently in the new Harry Potter) and world's leading interepreter of T.S. Eliot on the stage, Jon Snow, popular national television newsreader, P D James, the greatest living author of detective fiction in the Christie tradtion, Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, the English world's best-known living scientist-atheist, and the former model and wife of former Tory Leader, Michael Howard, Sandra Howard.

The two most interesting selections were by James and Dawkins. Baronnes James read Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach", which regrets the low tide of the sea of faith, and Professor Dawkins, more responsible than most for that rush of receding belief on the world's shingles, read "The Snake", by DH Lawrence, a suitably zoological and even potentially demonic selection, natural to the man, no doubt. Both read exceptionally well - as in fact, did all. Bakewell read Auden. Snow ended the night with a bit of uplifting Heaney.

I read exceprts from AM Klein's major Canadian poem, "Portrait of the Poet as Landscape" - which no one had heard before but all seemed to appreciate.

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