On Saturday 15 September the sun was shining in London and the Southbank was humming with activity. Outside Foyles at the Royal Festival Hall, an inconspicuous microphone and raised platform stood on a small square ‘lawn’, surrounded by chairs and a bookstall which, unfortunately, could be easily passed by in the crowds. This was home to Inpress’ Poetry Garden Market – a one day event – celebrating ten years of supporting small, independent publishers. Inpress is the “UK’s specialist in selling books produced by independent publishers,” bringing innovative and non-mainstream books together. They work in partnership with publishers, ensuring that they and their writers profit from the purchase of every book, which “makes enjoying a good book a brilliant thing for everyone”.

This “one-day extravaganza” held poetry readings, workshops and birthday celebrations all free of charge throughout the day. The day’s events began with poetry readings where librarians from the Saison Poetry Library hand-picked poets to read and personally introduced them.

First to read was Melissa Lee-Houghton who read a number of new poems along with many from her collection A Body Made of You. Highly evocative and emotional, the poems were written for “other writers, artists, strangers, lovers and friends” and were powerful and original. Next was Lotte Kramer, who has been described as a ‘Holocaust poet’. Reading from her New and Collected Poems, her poetry spoke poignantly of her sense of exile from Germany, the landscapes of modern Europe and the family and friends she left behind when she came to Britain. Ira Lightman, a conceptual poet, read from his collection Mustard Tart as Lemon. Filled with comedy, his performance poetry was intriguing and entertaining.

…perceptive, entertaining and, at times, comical…

John Wedgwood Clarke read from his pamphlet Sea Swim which explored the relationship between swimming in the sea and the way we think about ourselves. Before reading each beautifully vivid poem he recounted personal stories, memories or feelings that each poem evoked, giving them a more personal tone. Kim Moore, receiver of the 2011 Geoffrey Dearmer prize for her poem Tuesday at Wetherspoons, read from her pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves. Her poems were perceptive, entertaining and, at times, comical. Hannah Lowe, whilst reading from her pamphlet The Hitcher, told personal anecdotes and stories behind the poems she read that spoke powerfully and honestly about childhood and childhood perceptions.

Lastly, Rhian Edwards performed a collection of her poetry. Bridging the gap between performance and poetry, she read from memory, enthralling the crowd with her unique and distinctive poetry. The readings from all poets cut through the buzz of noise from the Southbank, and by the end of the readings a crowd had gathered to listen.

…to help celebrate Inpress’ first decade of supporting independent book publishers…

The books from which the poets read were all available from the bookstall, which also sold a selection of the best contemporary poetry books, pamphlets and magazines. For the remainder of the afternoon, fifteen minute close reading workshops were available with the Poetry School, offering audience members a chance to discuss and interpret the poetry they’d experienced. After this, the winners of the Inpress ‘Indian Summer’ Poetry Competition were announced, with wine and cake to follow to help celebrate Inpress’ first decade of supporting independent book publishers.

Those who did walk past this event on the busy Southbank missed out on an afternoon of poetry that entertained and inspired in a close and intimate setting. It’s a shame that this was a one-off event as, if the crowds were anything to go by, the day was a success in supporting independent publishers and, more importantly, showcasing brilliant poetry.

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