On Friday I participated in the “Maenads of Necessity” reading at Cambridge University with talented poets Vahni Capildeo, Jeremy Hardingham, Dino Mahoney, Hope Doherty, and Paige Smeaton. The reading was a Bacchanalian feast for the eyes and ears. Feathers still float through my memory, and if I approach my recollections at just the right angle I can catch a wayward spritz of paint from the other side of the room. We daisy-chained voice to voice as we recited, sang, and chanted lines of poetry at random. I wrote snippets of poems on leaves. My shyness hid in this little bower, a small forest of words, letters settled on leaf veins like birds on branches. I was a maenad of little voice, barely chirping my words, while the others performed beautifully (Dino! Jeremy!). Maenads wove ribbons around sticks and pine cones Dionysian-style, their self-styled thyrses like wands or walking sticks, lending poems an imperial air; poems recited from the plinth of tree trunks growing from the drama studio floor.
Here’s a snippet from one of the poems I read (Mossery):
I walk the Botanic Gardens where
skeletal stems reminisce in hedgerows.
Moss-felted beds brag lichen’s
winter flowers. This is where we spoke
of transplants years ago; poet expats, émigré’s.
I’ve read Heine’s Poet in Exile and smiled
at our tumbleweed tribe;
language our common wealth, a
new world we build from the ground up,
starting with sphagnum moss.