At Central Library Committee room these two poets, who are winners of commonwords 30 poems competition, did a Saturday afternoon reading.
Maya Chowdry ticks all the boxes of what allows her to interweave multiple identities, as an asian lesbian, born in Scotland who wears a purple crushed velvet outfit adorned with faux flowers and sporting a flashing coat of arms.
Her poetry tries to interweave the irony of how curry is the number one dish in Britain, and infuses modern culture with its roots, but hearing about curry made in a hurry was not for me.
Segun Lee French combined his written poetry with occasional bursts into song, which I really enjoyed. I would like to see him do just performance poetry, which he said he was better known for.
He spoke of his Nigerian mother giving birth to him and his twin brother, after 3 weeks his twin died and the mother was to care for a doll replacement, as part of the grieving process. He played with my imagination by telling me his own truths, which really appealed to me.
All in all, I love going to central library to hear poetry, the venue’s ideal and Libby Tempest is just so lovely, I want to be her one day.
My initiation to this year’s Manchester Literature festival, in the beautiful committee room of Central library.
Dorethea Smartt read from her new poetry collection Ship Shape, billed as a poet who dismantles cultural myths and ‘the kinda black woman the world ain’t seen yet’. I liked the fact that she was Brixton market’s first poet in residence.
Taken out of context, I was confused to the background of her poetry as the setting is Lancaster, but she explains how Samboo an African slave was brought over by a sea captain as a present for his wife. Samboo died within a few days of his arrival and is presumed to be buried at Sunderland point. Smartt imagines Samboo’s journey and paints a picture of migration in past and present terms. I was left feeling there is so much I do not know.
Then there was Cynthia.
Cynthia McLeod a Dutch writer from Suriname, is the author of The free Negress Elisabeth. Cynthia put 12 years into researching Surinamese history, and paints a wonderful picture of life there. I want her to come home with me and tell me bed time stories, though I don’t say this to her.
Cynthia spoke about all the different cultures in Suriname that live together in harmony, and how every religion celebrates each feast. The Surinamese Muslims, she says have the most lavish Christmas decorations, I giggle as she laughs at herself. Her tone was beautiful and I fell in love with her there and then.
Her first novel ‘How expensive was the sugar?’ sold out in Suriname within a matter of weeks, and in 1987 she became the most famous Surinamese writer.
As for me I had no idea that Suriname even existed, and Cynthia’s telling of her home country was beautiful. The story of Elisabeth sounds compelling to read with the underlying drive for a free negress with so much wealth trying to gain acceptance of Dutch colonial society by marrying a white man.
This was a great start to the festival and all for zero pence.