the poets gather

On the 6th May at the book shop of the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, the contributing poets to The Book of Ystwyth gathered to read from it. With the exception of Catriona Urquhart, who died six years ago, all the poets were present. This was quite a feat, as three of them hail from the US and so had to travel a long way indeed. By contrast Damian Walford Davies, who both contributed as a poet to the book and was MC to the evening, had a three minute car journey from his house! However Callum James drove all the way from Portsmouth, which journey probably took him as long as a trans-Atlantic flight! With all the poets safely gathered together, the launch was a perfect occasion, and afterwards we all went for a splendid Indian meal.

I must thank everyone who contributed to the success of the launch. The poets themselves, Ian Hamilton, who drove from Scotland and shared with me the privilege of reading Catriona’s poems, the thoughtful staff at the book shop, Anita for her technical support, Damian for his beautiful introduction and links, and not least the people who turned up in such numbers to hear us. They were an appreciative audience and afterwards purchased many copies of the book.

Luckily Dave Bonta had the foresight to plan a video recording of the reading, and Anita Mills stepped up to the mark and became camera-woman to the event. So for those of you who were not present, although you missed a treat, you can nevertheless see and hear it all HERE.

8 thoughts on “the poets gather

  1. Brewer (he of the Phrase and Fable) says “to toe the mark – to line up abreast of the others; so, to ‘fall in’ and do one’s duty”. Nothing about “stepping up to” the mark. For some reason I thought it had to do with taking position in the butts to shoot (arrows) at the target (mark) and had thereby include the connotation of signing up to do something dutiful (like be recruited, go off to fight for some bastard and die horribly) but I can’t find anything to justify what is obviously a fanciful personal invention.

    • In this case I like the fanciful personal invention rather better than the facts. That’s what so marvellous about language when used creatively. It can transcend and enrich. Now when I use the phrase I shall be thinking of your butts and targets, arrows and self-sacrifice!

  2. Thanks for linking, Clive. I enjoyed reliving the evening as I edited the video. Before this, I don’t think I’d ever attended a multi-author reading that didn’t include at least one dullard, but somehow we all managed to read pretty well, if I may say so — some outstandingly well. Maybe it’s your “dark star” gravitational influence!

    (Irrelevant side note: I’m interested in your use of the expression “step up to the mark.” Is that from cricket, perhaps? We would say “step up to the plate” in this context, and that’s a baseball analogy.)

    • Dave, I’m not at all sure what the origin of ‘step up to the mark’ is. I’ve heard the American term of ‘step up to the plate’, derived from baseball. I think that there’s possibly a subtle difference between the two, the former meaning to rise to the challenge of achieving the benchmark standard of excellence, and the latter being more to do with taking one’s turn. In Anita’s case I think she definitely rose to the challenge!

      I’m so pleased you took in hand the matter of recording the poetry evening. The result is lovely, and it’s a delight to relive those remarkable performances.

          • Step up to the plate has become quite a common expression in the UK in recent years, what with this modern-day penchant for aspirational TV competitions, although I doubt most folks over here know the origin. I certainly didn’t. As it features a lot on MasterChef I just couldn’t help thinking of a plate of nosh as opposed to one you stand on!

            There is now a whole slew of clichés for the competitors in such shows to fall back on when interviewed – ‘I’m gonna raise my game/ step up to the plate/ raise the bar/ take it to the next level/ take it up a notch/ push the boat out/ think outside the box/ give it 120 % (110 % is no longer good enough!), &c., &c..

            When former bosses of mine asked my fellow drudges to give 110% I always felt like confessing that I was hoping for something more around the 80 % mark – that extra 10 % I was meant to be giving was coming off something else and I was never keen to part with it!

            A really great day, wonderfully captured!

            • The current vogue for aspiring to a greater percentage than can be accounted for in the rules as writ here on planet earth, always makes me sigh and wonder about the British education system! And yes, the language of the competitive game show seems to reference only other game shows, which is deeply irritating and reductive. I try to see as few as possible of them, though these days they are legion and it’s hard to miss bits of the damned things while trying to channel-hop as far away as possible. I swear that if I have to listen to another whey-faced aspirant to pop-stardom whine that ” Winning this show means everything to me!”, then I shall put the television in the garage and never watch it again! (Sigh!)

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