Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of being one of many (126 attendees), at this book launch. It was lovely to see people I know and spend a few hours listening to and celebrating poetry.
I have known about Chaucer’s pamphlet for a while and was able to celebrate the publishing contract with her (virtually, of course) in 2020, I saw her International Guest Reading and have heard many poems from this pamphlet. It is a difficult and necessary subject and I am delighted for her that ATG picked it for one of the 2021 Pamphlets.
This was such an amazing event, I am struggling to put my feelings into words. It will take a while for my mind (and heart) to settle. It was remarkable, a phenomenal reading of poems from four skilful poets. The subject matter of much of the work had my emotions staggering, I was prepared for In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered but I hadn’t readied myself for what I have just experienced. I don’t think I could have.
As far as Book Launches go, we all witnessed something so much more. I felt we had been churned by a rough sea voyage and sprinkled with the relief of a shower after a long, muddy trek. We were taken to some incredibly dark places and also bound to cherished, unconditional love.
I feel like I spent the afternoon in some sort of immersive performance piece. These books carry stories which are difficult to read. As humans it is always hard for us to be open to the truth of what we do to each other, our potential to harm and destroy. They are also mighty pamphlets brimming with monumental poems.
Abegail Morley introduced the event and Cheryl Moskowitz. Cheryl introduced us to her Guest Poet, Isabelle Baafi, who gave us an incredible reading from her pamphlet, Ripe which was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice: Spring 2021 Selections. I can see why it was selected.
“Ripe is a pamphlet which draws on the mundane to forge beauty, using sensual tones to deal with and address harsh subject matter. Baafi’s poems are great inventions in terms of their use of form. Throughout this book, her use of language is never laboured in its endeavour to draw the reader’s attention. […] Overall, Baafi’s poems often step outside the rational and waking consciousness in order to investigate other realms, be that paranoia, dream states etc. […] Through her lyric poems, prose poetry, erasures and much besides, Baafi offers us a complex world worth savouring, as she revels in language both sacred and profane. This is a pamphlet to enjoy and a poet to watch.”
— Nick Makoha and Mary Jean Chan, PBS Pamphlet Selectors
Her work is wonderful, powerful and honest. Stunning poems. Something special. Isabelle’s work spoke to Cheryl’s work well. And was a perfect set.
Cheryl Moskowitz shared work from Maternal Impression. Cheryl’s work was both enthralling and epic. She talked generously about the inspiration behind the poems and some of the places, narratives and people featured throughout her work. Cheryl also shared an astonishing film poem produced by her filmmaker son for ‘A Son Awake’.
“Every time I have heard Cheryl Moskowitz read “The Donner Party”, strange things have happened – a bell has rung with no-one at the door, candles have guttered in a church setting, and shivers always run down my spine. Moskowitz’s poetry summons spirits and spills beyond the words on the page into a mystical space where we are all connected in body and mind. These are poems that once read or heard, leave their mark. Mesmeric, soul-feeding, uneasy, I come back to them again and again for reassurance, admonishment, and recognition of what it is to hang onto the maternal in our collective journey. Maternal Impression is a call to arms – maternal arms – and all that implies in the Anthropocene. It has a beating heart that needs to be heard, felt, and heeded.” – Lisa Kelly
“Reading Maternal Impression is to have the feeling of walking on nails with bare feet, with the assurance of trust. I go tenderly where these fine poems take me, knowing they will advance my pleasure, my empowerment.” – Daljit Nagra
Jessica Mookherjee introduced Chaucer Cameron, both poets spoke highly of their editing experience with ATG. Chaucer talked about an interview with Jeffrey Sugarman ‘Voicing our Silences‘ about the impact of prostitution and trauma on the body. Chaucer introduced Lucy English as her Guest Reader.
This book has recently become a filmmaking project with 27 filmmakers involved. Lucy wanted to create it in three-dimensional form. You can discover more and watch here.
Lucy shared some of her Lockdown writing, after expressing how difficult creativity has been at this time. Her poetry was brilliant, cinematic, microscopic, the specific and this new work captured the feeling of being trapped well.
Chaucer Cameron read an epic set, strong, brave, vulnerable poems which hinge around characters in the industry, including Crystal. It is an incredible body of work and like nothing I’ve ever read. As Chaucer says ‘the characters have their own reasons for being in the industry and only they know where they stand at any given time‘.
In an Ideal World I’d Not be Murdered is part memoir/part fiction and is Chaucer’s debut pamphlet. The poems explore the impact of prostitution.
“These poems ring out like gunshots in the night; they will wake you from your sleep. Yet despite its distilled directness, this book is lifted by both mystery and surprise. Listen for the songs emerging from the dark centre of this transformative work of experience and survival.’ Jacqueline Saphra.
Chaucer also shared a film poem made by Helen Dewbery ‘Hooked (with internal song)‘. Another amazing work.
Both poets spoke of their connections to each other having never met they discovered amongst other things, giving birth to their children in the same hospital.
Every reading was outstanding! I love being introduced to new-to-me poets and Isabelle Baafi and Cheryl Moskowitz are now both on my reading list. It was a joy to watch two new poetry films. ATG asked for our questions and plan to produce blog content with the Q&A. It was such a rich and full afternoon of content I am glad they didn’t add a Q&A on. As audience we were stunned and needed time to sit in the sensations we felt. I look forward to reading the Q&A from the ATG poets soon. Instead we heard extra poems from Cheryl and Chaucer.
There really are no words to express this Book Launch, those lucky enough to have been there, know.