I meant to post this before - we had the most wonderful evening on 5th March with Anne Stevenson, who read for an hour and a quarter from Completing the Circle, her recent Bloodaxe collection, and then took questions from the audience. She started, appropriately, with How Poems Arrive:
You say them as your undertongue declares,
Then let them knock about your upper mind
Until the shape of what they mean appears.
Like love, they're stongest when admitted blind,
Judging by feel, feeling with sharpened sense
While yet their need to be is undefined.
This is just the first couple of stanzas but she read it all. She then read Anaesthesia and At 85, the two poems that frame the collection. Both are sonnets - 'I've always found it satisfactory to play the game of the sonnet' - and ruminations on age and loss, very spare and beautiful -
this, from Anaesthesia:
They slip away who never said goodbye,
My vintage friends so long depended on
To warm deep levels of my memory.
And if I cared for them, care has to learn
How to grieve sparingly and not to cry.
I wish I could quote the whole sonnet, it is so clear and deceptively simple. Read it!
The collection opens with the revision of an earlier poem, Saying the World - 'that's a poem I've revised and revised - I like the revision this time... I've always revised poems whether published or not.' Before reading it to us she read Elizabeth Bishop's One Art, a villanelle: 'I took the rhythm of it and did something else - there are two things to say about the last stanza. She obviously cared very much that she would lose the person she was writing about - and losing is very painful and you have to master it and get through.'
She then read Completing the Circle - 'an abstract poem, more abstract than I'm used to writing. That was an important poem to me'. And Choose to be a Rainbow - 'why be dust? Why not be water?' - and talked about her love of verses, as distinct from poetry. Verses being lighter, humorous, full of play but nonetheless often serious. She writes verses for Christmas cards and birthdays, and there is one in the collection for her dentist. She talked humorously about Dover Beach Reconsidered, and how the poem had always bothered her - 'Well, tides come and go, they don't just stay out! The tide comes in again, and so in history...'
Of Poetry and Wine came next, verses for her sons, then Now We Are 80, a long poem written for Fleur Adcock - 'I like that last line, "Why we aren't wickedly what once we were".' Then Candles, which she introduced by saying, 'Let me read a short poem that I like very much. I wrote 20 or 30 drafts... candles, the soul going up and the body disappearing.'
She finished with some long, autobiographical poems - The Gift Bowl, Pronunciation and I think she also read Sandi Russell Sings. As you will realise if you buy Completing the Circle, she read most of the book to us that evening and it was a huge privilege to hear her. She is still writing, though she started by saying 'Once you get to be 80 you feel that maybe you can give it a rest.' She is 87 now and I don't think she will give it a rest.
Welcome to The Woodstock Bookshop
The shop opened in May 2008 and is on the main road in Woodstock, just next to the bus stop. We can supply most books to order by the next day and have several thousand books in stock: to order books ring or email the shop. We have a large selection of children's books and are happy to advise and recommend. We can also supply second-hand and out-of-print titles. We offer discounts for school orders and for book clubs and have a free local delivery service.
We were on the regional shortlist for Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2009, 2013 and 2017, and listed in the Independent's Top 50 UK Bookshops.
Two monthly book groups take place at the bookshop - a poetry group, initially formed to read collections submitted for the annual T S Eliot Prize and now following a slightly wider brief; and a book group focusing more on fiction. Both are open to everyone but occasionally space is limited - please contact us for details.
We hold a series of informal talks and readings throughout the year. If you buy any book at the talk the cost of the ticket will be deducted. Please ring or email to book a place - early booking advisable.
WOODSTOCK POETRY FESTIVAL
The bookshop started and runs Woodstock Poetry Festival, a completely independent festival that has now been running for 7 years.
The Woodstock Literature Society also holds an excellent series of monthly talks - do visit their website for further details.