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Wednesday saw a collaboration between wonderful local poets Mike Hopkins and Heather Taylor Johnson at the Halifax Café, reading a few poems written on their recent jaunt to the UK where they cycled, yes cycled, around the Yorkshire Dales.

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Introduced by Ian Gibbins, responsible for Friendly Street Poets communications, Mike was first up beginning with a poem ‘From Wensleydale’ (after Jen Hadfield), which was inspired by the place names they came across during their trip. A clever poem with a strong sense of the great outdoors followed by another called ‘Hills’ and ‘Walls, the latter closing with the gorgeous image of ‘the land’s flanks stitched with drystone ribs.’ Mike also read a piece called ‘Burning the Bartle’ about the annual tradition in a village they stayed in where an effigy of Bartle is burned – ‘Bartle the sheep stealer, Bartle the pig thief, Bartle the giant’ – and finished his travel poems with ‘The Fox and Hounds’, describing a typical British pub with its eclectic name and clientele. Mike is an entertaining poet, telling it how it is, wonderfully conveyed through the poems ‘I could yet turn into’ where he describes a recent eye test, ‘Taking off Tony Abbott’s clothes’ a hilarious commentary of just that, and finished with a piece about the kind of poems to avoid reading aloud, which left very little!

Heather opened with a poem called ‘Feet’, one of two poems written while away, which painted an almost surreal picture and yet was literally grounded. Using a theme of perceptions, Heather then read ‘How to identify an author at a reading’, a stunningly simple description, followed by poems about pregnancy with the fantastic line of ‘a belly that is feral with what it’s done’ and a three part poem that examined being pregnant from the outside, inside and bottom up, beautifully poignant. Heather has a lullaby voice, woos us into her world where ‘The kitchen floor’ gives us visceral images of home and heat and in ‘The cake is done, I am done’ a relationship is cooling. In ‘The sick room’ we watch as ‘he offers to feed you spoonfuls of himself’ and then takes us on a journey with poems about traveling through South America. Heather finished her set by advertising her ‘Fractured Self‘ anthology, a collection of poems that will focus on the different facets of human nature when impacted by illness, a brilliant concept and one I plan to contribute to.

After work on Wednesday I went along to the regular Words@Wall event to hear Louise Nicholas and Judy Dally read some of their poetry.

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Hosted by Ian Gibbons of Friendly Street Poets, the set was a very entertaining one, in fact probably one of the most engaging poetry performances I have ever experienced!

Due to several recurring themes in their work, Louise and Judy took turns to read, which resulted in a wonderfully intimate atmosphere where the audience were invited to step into their lives for a while.

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They began with poems about mothers, swiftly followed by fathers, their styles quite different but very complimentary. Other themes included nostalgia, love, travel and then with both having a teaching background, school. Some pieces were funny, some poignant, but all were spoken with a certain ease as if we were the old friends that Louise and Judy are.

And in true style I purchased a copy of both of their collections – Louise’s chapbook entitled Large recently published by Garron Publishing and Judy’s At Sixes and Sevens printed by Always Printing, along with a collaboration of work that Louise did with Jude Aquilina, Woman Speak published by Wakefield Press. Now, which one to read first…

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