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Clare's café highlights w/c 12 March

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Clare English Clare English | 14:00 UK time, Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Both the Book and Culture cafés this week were having a bit of a love-in with poetry. On Monday we spoke to young novelist and poet, Joe Dunthorne. He's had two books out - the first, SUBMARINE, was made into a bitter sweet teen angst movie and there are lines from it that replay in my head to this day (none of them repeatable!) So this is a guy with a sense of humour who's able to flip between fiction and poetry with ease. Joe's appearing at this year's StAnza International Poetry Festival in St Andrews where he's got a screening of that movie, Submarine and he'll also be taking part in an event called Psycho Poetica. Now that sounds interesting! A dozen or so poets are taking sections of Hitchcock's most chilling film and give it the poetic treatment.

Sometimes we don't realise we like poetry until it sneaks under the radar in the guise of something else. The same applies to ANOTHER StAnza event involving one of Scotland's finest thespians, David Hayman. He's going to be Larkin about with some jazz at St Andrews. I choose my words carefully because that is quite literally what he's up to with some musical backup from old smoothie and erstwhile BBC senior producer, Dave Batchelor and his quintet. On the Book Café, we listened to Mr Hayman read out the brutal remarks made by Philip Larkin on the jazz acts of the day. Larkin himself was highly knowledgeable, he was a jazz critic, but he hated contemporary artists like John Coltrane, his preference was for 1940s jazz. After reading an excoriating piece on the former's playing style we let the music speak for itself. Frankly Coltrane sounded sublime to me and my studio guests (D Hayman remarking it was music made for 3 am ) and then we had some more music from Sidney Bechet. (Any excuse, eh?) David H then read out another extract from his StAnza show and I swear that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It's not hard to see why this man can command an audience with that voice; he's putting it to good use at the Citizens Theatre next month when he plays King Lear. I am making plans to attend already - who'd want to miss it in the very venue that kick started DH's career 33 yrs ago? Do yourself a favour and see a master in action in Shakespeare's greatest play - a highlight in the year's cultural calendar if ever there was one.

More poetry for the Culture Café (straight after the Book Café for me - we were recording this event for our special edition with an invited audience at Pacific Quay. No rest for the wicked). I was lucky enough to be asked to host the launch of an ambitious collaboration between BBC SCOTLAND, THE SCOTTISH POETRY LIBRARY and CREATIVE SCOTLAND, called "Poetry 2012: the Written World". This is poetry on a mission to spread its gospel over our airwaves. Each of the 205 nations competing in this year's Olympic and Paralympic games will be represented with a short verse from a native poet. The names may not be the big ones but they do represent the heart/ soul and feel of the countries represented. To that end, the BBC invited readers from around the world to come and recite the poetry. None of them were broadcasters although there were a few poets and musicians in the mix. We did a short rehearsal and I spotted a few grey faces as they realised what they'd let themselves in for. I needn't have worried as when we went live, I was knocked out by the recitations, each one delivered with feeling and at a pace that was just perfect for poetry. There were contributions from Mexico, Ghana, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Guyana - so that should give you an idea of the breadth of reach and subject matter that BBC Scotland listeners will be able to enjoy in the coming months. Oh and I should mention one of our old café friends, William Letford, a poet from Stirling who happens to be a roofer; his recitation of three short and snappy poems proved a real crowd pleaser.

Clare English presents thePoetry 2012: The Written World launch night and Robyn Marsack, Director of the Scottish Poetry Library introduces the project


It was a night for poetry but also music as Glasgow based Zimbabwean poet playwright and musician Tawona Sithole and his brother Ernest provided a musical interlude. They produced two large bowl shaped instruments with what looked like giant buttons adorning the ring. The bowls concealed the real workings - a mechanical contraption of metal keys that were played by either compressing them or pushing them up. I can't describe the sound but if I were to have a stab I would say it was a magical chime like a music box. Totally captivating! The instrument, an Mbira, had been played by Tawona and his brother since they were little kids and he admitted that for a time in his teens, he fell out of love with its quirky sound. But now, he just had to pick it up and start to play and the music brought back the sights, sounds, smells and stories of his homeland.


A final word goes to Sammy Garcia; he emailed BBC SCOTLAND when he heard we were recording the Poetry 2012 show involving readers from Olympic participating nations. He offered his services on behalf of Guatamala but we were too late to take him up on it. Sammy, Esme, my intrepid producer has your name now. There is no hiding place!

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