Poetry book launch: Elizabeth Parker, Paul Deaton and Claire Williamson

Many moons ago and not so far from here, Lizzie Parker and I were at secondary school together. We were close friends, sometimes best, sometimes not, in that way that friendships fluctuate when you’re young. After leaving school we lost touch for many years, and then recently reconnected in Bristol. But once someone has been your best friend, however briefly or long ago, they’re tied to you in a way.

Which is my long-winded way of saying that I can’t be objective about the first of the three poetry pamphlets I went to the launch of on Monday night. For the record, I think it’s very good. And Lizzie has been shortlisted for multiple prizes so it’s not just me who thinks that. But if you need convincing, watch the above video of Lizzie performing.

Lizzie is part of Bristol poetry collective The Spoke, three of whose four members published pamphlets on 1 March with small press Eyewear Publishing. They’re beautifully crafted books and well worth the cover price of £5.

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Antinopolis
by Elizabeth Parker

Lizzie writes about literary themes with a modern bent. For instance, in the title poem she draws parallels between the death of stranger who drowned in Bristol harbour and tales surrounding the ancient Greek city Antinopolis. In a more personal poem she recalls walking around Cannop Ponds with her dad, demanding that he tell her the names of all the plants and creatures. I know both Cannop Ponds and Lizzie’s dad (in fact I was sat with him and all Lizzie’s family at the launch) but it’s not that which made the poem effective; it’s the closely observed detail. There’s a definite sense of drama in all her work.

Black Night
by Paul Deaton

Paul apologised repeatedly for the darkness of his poems and it’s certainly an unavoidable label, but not necessarily a bad one. His writing felt real, grounded and honest. There’s a sense of facing up to big emotions, embracing them, however painful.

Split Ends
by Claire Williamson

I think I had come across Claire’s work before but somehow forgotten about her and I regret that, because it really spoke to me. This collection concentrates in particular on her family, past and present, and again confronts big emotional truths in small moments of understanding.

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