Swindon Festival of Poetry – Annie Freud and Tamar Yoseloff

9 Oct

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Internet dating, talking to furniture and works of art were the poetic subjects of last night’s event, at Swindon Central Library’s poetry space.

Sylvia Novak sang and read from her book, Love in the Age of Technology, inspired by internet dating: “It haunted me so much that I wrote an anthology on the experience,” she said. Sylvia sometimes sang with her guitar, and sometimes talked alongside Gavin Daniels performing with flute and guitar.

It’s interesting to hear performers such as Sylvia say they’ve put poetry to music or arranged music to the words. Other people might call it a song, or a rap. Well not quite rap which is riffed off the beat. A dance piece where the dance is created and music arranged to it is still ‘dance’, not movement set to music. Or perhaps I’m wrong here. Does it matter? Are these delineations helpful to poetry reaching a greater audience? Comments at the bottom…

Annie Freud (yes, one of those Freuds) read from The Best Man That Ever Was, a book inspired by holding lots of parties, ‘speaking to the furniture’ and a big love of Scotcheggs – ‘they call to me and nothing else will do’ she said. I feel the same way about Double Decker bars.

Finishing her first poem, To a Coat-Stand, she remarked: “reading that I realise I am no longer the person who wrote that poem.” Brave of her to read it again. I look at past work and cringe but I guess this is the difference between having poetic skill but simply moving away from that point in your life (and recognising it as healthy), and simply writing better work over time.

Annie Freud writes the kind of poetry that is easy to hear. And it helps that she has a great voice and reads with passion. Alongside the clever metaphors and deep meanings she throws in everyday language such as ‘she bangs a Frenchman’ and ‘a life lived in a lunch break’. Being the daughter of celebrated artist Lucien Freud one would think her life was all about art, but, no, she’s had her share of local government jobs like so many of us. It’s poetry making some meaning from the normalcy of everyday.

There were also the poems written of her late father, of vignettes of visits such as The Most Beautiful Bottom in the World – a discussion with him of a photograph hung on his wall.

After the break we heard from Tamar Yoseloff. I must admit I’m finding poetry based on paintings a bit wearisome; it’s common fodder of poetry workshops which are served up at open mics and the like. But Tamar Yoseloff showed us how it was done. Commissioned by the Tate for their website, Tamar read her brief poetic responses to works of art. Even better, the art was projected behind her so we could all be on the same page of understanding.

I liked a line from Mud, based on Howard Hodgkin’s painting of the same name, because it’s about something I strive to avoid: ‘The antiseptic sting of boredom.’

The name of the anthology, The City With Horns, was a poetic line said by the artist Jackson Pollack. I loved Tamar’s Portrait of the Artist as a Depressed Bastard – about his iconic photograph by Hans Namuth – if only because it took me from a seminal abstract artist to the end words ‘Burger King’.

Tamar also read from Formerly – her chapbook of poems with photographs by her friend Vici MacDonald of ‘particular points of ‘loveliness’ in SE1′ London where they live (which fitted nicely with Michael Scott’s Friday workshop on psychogeography). She finished with new work about artist and sculptor Alison Gill.

One Response to “Swindon Festival of Poetry – Annie Freud and Tamar Yoseloff”


  1. Swindon Festival of Poetry – Is it Nearly Christmas? « Festival Chronicle - 11th Oct 2012

    […] talked in the last post about poetry inspired by pictures but this time we made our own pictures then wrote our poem to go with […]

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