Ground Signs at Poetry Swindon Festival

2 Oct
Isabel Palmer

Isabel Palmer

Sometimes, listening to poetry reminds me of church-going as a child – I know it’s good for my soul but I just want to sleep. I read some terrible advice back then for lay people reading out the Bible readings: don’t detract from the words by being too animated, it’s not about the reader.

But Isabel Palmer today (Friday) at Poetry Swindon Festival caught me in the tear ducts like Robert Peake last year. Her collection, Ground Signs, was written, I think, as a way of keeping her sanity while her son became a soldier ‘coming of age doing the probably the most dangerous job an infantryman in Afghanistan can do’.

I’m still chewing on these arresting lines from ‘BFPO’: ‘and think this must be how it feels / to be looking at a rainbow as a child / steps in front of a car’.

Isabel was paired with experienced hand Myra Schneider who paid tribute to Isabel’s newly emerging voice: ‘Very little poetry about war, works. But this does.’ She pursed her lips and made a fist. ‘Very authentic.’

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