Needlemakers Writers held their third event last Thursday. An evening of prose and poetry in the Needlemakers cafe - a good atmospheric venue for such things. Great food and drink on offer, books a vailable, and Skylark - the lovely place that said yes to stocking Words from a Glass Bubble - still open for a wee bit of Christmas shopping.
(Actually I was sort of involved in starting this series of events...There was a get together of writers at a place called The Garden Room Cafe, thanks to the lovely Cynthia Parrott (who wouldnt die for a name like that?).. meant to be a Lewes book launch for Bubble, but instead I wanted to just have a celebration of WRITERS and WRITING so did so and we all read stuff and didnt launch anything... but some of us stayed behind to talk about organising reading events, possibilities...)
This from What's on in Lewes: Three Lewes-based writers, two novelists and a poet, read from their latest works in the Needlemakers’ Cafe. Clare Best is the poet; her collection ‘Self Portrait Without Breasts’ has been short-listed for three awards, and she’s working on another, too. ‘Treasure Ground’ is based on her experiences during an innovative writing tenancy on an organic farm in the Lincolnshire Fens. Susannah Waters combines running Paddock Productions (which organised the recent opera ‘The Finnish Prisoner’ in a disused warehouse on the Phoenix Industrial Estate) with writing novels; her latest, Cold Comfort, was a ‘Book of the Week’ on Radio 4, and deals with the subject of climate change. She’ll be reading from her new novel. Irving Weinman, who teaches an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Sussex, is the author of five novels; the latest, Stealing Home, came out in 2004. His next novel, Wolf Tones, is released in the spring.
But I'd like to add a wee bit about the poet, Clare Best. It is so easy to turn aside from work that deals with personal physical issues. Why? because so often they can come over as self indulgent, maybe uninteresting even, except to the family of the writer.
Not this one. Clare's reading has to be one of the strongest and most moving I have heard. The work is straight, honest, searing... and funny, poignant, full of those little things that say 'this writer is a REAL writer. Not a sham'. You could have heard a pin drop (sorry for the cliche) and for good reason. The words were too good to miss.
Clare inherited a particular gene which gave her a high chance of developing breast cancer. So she opted to have her breasts removed as a preventative measure. She also decided not to have reconstruction, but to be honest and live with her different shape. These poems have been shortlisted for several prizes (see the bottom of the post), and deal with very searing moments. And very tender moments, as she charts her journey through poetry.
The touch of the young male doctor, just before she slipped under the anaesthetic. Her son, seeing her new body, telling her she was 'even more beautiful'. A trip to an Anne Summers shop to buy nipples. 'I've lost mine...' and most poignant of all, intimacy. Memory of sex, with breasts. Loss.
Am I allowed to say that she looked stunning? Little, blonde, sparkling in a pink glittery dress (for Christmas, she said) and silver tights. A very gutsy, talented Christmas fairy, who writes like a giant.
Clare sent me the details of the prizes and so forth. As Catherine Smith said when introducing her, I too hope this collection is picked up fast.
The collection 'Self-portrait without Breasts' is still work in progress (begun a year ago), but groups/sequences of poems from the collection have this year been shortlisted as follows: Writers Inc Writers of the Year Award, the Templar Poetry Competition, and the Cinnamon Press Poetry Award (in this I reached the final four). Poems from the collection have so far been published in the Templar anthology 'Buzz' and are forthcoming in the Cinnamon Press anthology 'The Sandhopper Lover' due out in I think March 09, and in Smiths Knoll magazine (also to be published spring 09). Another of the poems was highly commended in the Essex Poetry Competition recently. And, just heard - 'Countdown' has been accepted for publication by Magma no 43 (March 09)