Last week I found myself hearing Rhona McAdam and Tamar Yoseloff reading their work in the basement of a new bookshop and cultural hub behind Waterloo Station called Travelling Through. The event was so well attended that people sat on stairs to hear. Rhona and Tamar were joined by Sue Rose, whose work I thought excellent on this first hearing.
But personally the evening was all about seeing Rhona and Tamar. Lately I have had a strange sense of a homecoming and I’ve fallen in love with poetry, and its potential, all over again. Happily this has led to me seeing several old friends again too.
I’d not seen and heard Tammy read for 20 years or more. Tonight she reading from a book called Formerly, a collaboration with photographer Vici MacDonald, and together they captured disappearing scraps of London in words and black and white images. Many of the sites photographed in the collection have been demolished since it was written. It is a gorgeous little book from Hercules Editions, and comes heartily recommended from me as Tamar’s work is playful, engaged, and full of energy, and Vici’s images are haunting. Great stuff. Buy the book from here.
Rhona was reading from her new book Ex-ville, and after she gave me a copy of Cartography which is the only one of Rhona’s six full collections I did not already own.
Although Rhona lived in London for over ten years, and is often moved to write about it from abroad, for me her work remains resolutely Canadian. There is a sense of space in her work that it is full of unobtrusive but difficult truths. Here is the end of one of her poem ‘I raise a glass’, addressing her unborn children:
They are one more never
in the chain of nevers
crumpling in my throat. I am the keeper
of their names, and their untold fortunes,
guardian of the wrongs I will never do them.
Rhona’s style is not showy, but I have found the quiet dignity of her voice to be compelling ever since I first read her work in 1988. In that well-worn phrase, she has her own voice, and it rings true.