Review: Gillian Allnutt at the Poetry Parlour
Poetry Parlour was first introduced to me by its organiser Jo Colley. In the time I've known her Colley has demonstrated a real knack for making memorable poetry events of real quality and significance happen locally. She’s also a brilliant poet who makes memorable poems happen. That’s another post entirely.
Away from the pains of looking for suitable spaces, finding rooms that ‘sound’ right and negotiating booking fees, the premise of the Poetry Parlour is for a group to gather in a host's kindly volunteered living room to hear an intimate reading with a selected author. Personal conversation about the poems, the comments and questions follow. Simply put, Poetry Parlour is an event tailored to those who read and write poetry.
Gillian Allnutt is a poet whose work I have long admired and so I jumped at the invitation to come to her Poetry Parlour. Large scale poetry events are often a miles away from the interior readings we make in hot baths or on couches. That relaxed, personal atmosphere comes naturally to the Parlour,. It is a conversation, as in the French verb parler, to talk.
Hearing poetry aloud is the best way to enjoy it and hearing work read by the author makes something new happen to the words you've perhaps read aloud yourself many times. Treated to a full read through of icumen, Gillian's new chapbook, it was great fun to hear responses to the poems, noting parallels with my own or finding new perspectives. We were able to request to have a poem repeated. Often as readers we will return to a poem immediately after a first reading, so this was very refreshing and led to a deeper understanding of the poem. To hear the same poem several times is to hear more with each reading, This isn't common practice at poetry events, perhaps it could be experimented with.
After the reading I was able to grab a cup of tea and sit and talk with Gillian about a Thomas Bewick poem she wrote, what clouds are made of and other involvements. This proximity and depth of conversation is something that doesn't happen often enough at readings. Colley's Poetry Parlours stand out in their serving a functional purpose to readers, poets and in the wider sense, serving poetry itself, creating a space in which democratic dialogue can flourish.