Ivy Writers – James Brookes, Pierre Drogi, Kate Noakes
Reviewed by Missy Green.
The old brothel at Delaville Café got steamy Tuesday night for a session of French and English poetry. The line up was diverse with Kate Noakes painting colorful snapshots of the old colony in Cape Town and James Brooks digging into British and French empires with his pen. Pierre Drogi touched on nature, mystery, and (oh la la just in time for Halloween) magic in his works.
Kate Noakes brought us into the silver-green-and-yellow scenery of Cape Town with short poems which brought to light one or two people per poem and the curious foreign-feeling of being in South Africa. The lady selling fish or the children selling fruit along the highways become Kate’s portraits, impressive (nice fish!), yet lost, “in another country I would have known the name of the fish.” Her portrait of street children selling fruit provokes melancholy and her cursing the man with the green and yellow blanket, laughter. (Though it was “only in [Kate’s] mind of course.”)
Switching books, Kate continued an elegant style with “Finches Marrakesh.” Her clever phrasing guides the reader indirectly to images with phrases like “sunlight bleaches the branches” bringing the sensation of hot and white together in one word. Lastly she read a poem which translates from Italian into “lightening strike” which is what italians say for “love at first sight.” She began with the fierceness of the yellow, yellow, yellow of the strike which transforms into the “size of a pheonix egg” which must be “wrapped with care,” distilling the tenderness of her love.
Pierre Drogi brings tales of enchantment, nature and magic entirely in eloquent French. His presence was unusually calming, as he sat contently on a plush chair to read from his books and translations. His poetry evokes mystery, draws illumination, finds spirits in plants and trees such as, seeing you run along the tree trunk “tu parcours sous la forme mûrie du platane.”
The poem “conjurations” conjures the mystery of nature in a warm afternoon shower. The words on the page likewise splot in a non linear form like the pitter patter of the rain which gives “effets sourciers.” There is so much I’m sure that I missed as being just an OK French listener. I did notice some native speakers in front of me who, with respect to Pierre Drogi’s work, commented that it was “súper, mais vraiment!”
Final poet for the night is James Brooks from Britain. Young and with a prestigious award collection for poetry the expectations were high and he didn’t fail to impress. His poems centered around classical themes, referencing Dante, requiems, sonnets, troubadours. He was also sporting a Moby Dick shirt. Though he follows a classical framework, his writing is accessible by everyone.
He’s fascinated by the grandeur of empires, French, British, even Chinese. “Culture is the length of a shadow” he says in his sonnet to Mao. He’s tickled by disease only affecting wealthy Brits which gave way to his book’s title The English Sweats. In the philosophical “Robes Pierre at the scaffold he jests, “If the soul talks back, who cares?” and boldly declares that “death is the beginning of morality”
The readings went quickly and many were surprised to find it actually started on time! That is, it started 15 minutes late instead of 30. Be sure to be on time for the next Ivy Writers, or you might just miss out on great poetry.
James Brookes was born in 1986 and grew up in rural Sussex, a few minutes’ walk from Percy Shelley’s boyhood home. After studying at Warwick University, he received a major Eric Gregory Award in 2009 and a Hawthornden International Writer’s Fellowship in 2011. He has published a pamphlet, The English Sweats, with Pighog Press and is currently the Williams Librarian at Cranleigh School in Surrey, where he also teaches. His first full collection, Sins of the Leopard (Salt, 2012) is currently longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize.
Pierre Drogi est né à Metz le 15 mars 1961. Il est enseignant, poète et traducteur (du roumain, principalement et de Nichita Stanescu en particulier). Il est l’auteur de Encordelé, cahier de bouches et autres textes, Aspect, 2008, Tablatures, Tarabuste, 2008, Charbonnier, Atelier de l’Agneau, 2008, Métamorphoses, en collaboration avec Alain Dubois, Le Pommier, 2008, Afra / vrai corps, suivi de Nom de fée & Carnets d’éther, Le Clou dans le fer, 2010 (présentation de ce livre), Levées, suivi de : sa filleule, éd. Atelier de l’Agneau, Saint-Quentin-de-Caplong, novembre 2010, ascendant descendant, en deux livraisons, dans la revue Passage d’encres, Romainville, première partie (“ombre attachée”), n° 42, mars 2011 ; seconde partie (“Talitha koumi : parole cherchant un acte”), n° 43, mai 2011 et cette année:Animales, Le Clou dans le fer, 2013. Il est aussi traducteur: 5 poètes roumains, Éditions Comp’Act, 1995 (Emil Botta, Nichita Stanescu, Virgil Mazilescu, Dan Verona, Dinu Flamand, voir ici) Pierre Drogi a également publié un article important, Effacements du poème dans le numéro 156 de la revueLittérature, décembre 2009. Il est actuellement directeur de programme au Collège international de Philosophie.Pour un bibliographie complète et quelques extraits des textes, voir http://www.m-e-l.fr/pierre-drogi,ec,767
Kate Noakes is the author of Ocean to Interior (2007, Mighty Erudite Press), The Wall Menders (Two Rivers Press, 2009) and Cape Town (Eyewear Publishing, 2012). I-spy and Shanty is forthcoming in 2014 from corrupt press. Her work has also appeared in a number of magazines including Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland Review, Envoi, Magma, Mslexia, Poetry News, Cadenza, Iota, Other Poetry, Poetry Salzburg Review, Tears in the Fence, Citizen 32, South, Seam, Planet and The Wolf. It has been anthologised by Cinnamon Press, Leaf Books, Two Rivers Press and Seren. Noakes blogs atboomslangpoetry.blogspot.com and is a founding member of Paris Lit Up: See parislitup.com. She divides her time between Caversham, Berks and Paris. She has degrees in Geography, and English Literature from Reading University and an MPhil in Creative Writing from the University of Glamorgan. She is an elected member of the Welsh Academy and has taught creative writing for Oxford University.