Friday 28 February 2014


I attended the launch of David Park's The Poets' Wives last night at the Belfast Museum, an event organised by David Torrans of No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast. And it was an excellent affair all together.

Colin Reid's musical introduction was a hauntingly beautiful performance, despite the 'positive feedback' experienced by his guitar amp for a short time. Check out some of his mad guitar skills on YouTube. I've picked a tune that's slightly more upbeat than those performed last night (thought last night's pieces were well chosen for the venue and atmosphere), simply because it's Friday morning.

We also heard from Park's publisher (I should have written the lady's name down, feel free to nudge me if you know it). It was a glowing tribute, as you'd expect. Park has made Bloomsbury his literary home for a decade and a half now, and there are no signs that his welcome is wearing thin.

Damian Smyth from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland spoke for a short time (two pages!) about Park, his work and the achievements stemming from it. Smyth almost stole the show by announcing that The Poets' Wives will be Belfast's 'One City, One Book' this year; an honour previously bestowed upon Glenn Patterson and Lucy Caldwell.

Then David Park himself said a few words. It was my first time hearing him talk, and I was pleasantly surprised by his seemingly effortless wit and charm. For some reason (perhaps because he doesn't put himself out there that often -- or maybe I'm not looking in the right places for him) I thought he would be rather quiet and reserved. But he made me, and the audience, laugh more than once before reading from his novel.

Speaking of the audience, there had to be close to 200 people in attendance. A wonderful show of support for a writer that deserves it.

Belfast Poet Laureate and T.S. Elliot prize winner, Sinéad Morrissey, contributed to the night by reading poems connected to Park's novel; works by William Blake and Osip Mandelstam. The microphone may have played up on her a little, requiring some of us at the back of the room to lean forward and listen a little harder. And lean we did, quite precariously. Luckily, Morrissey's words gave us something to hang on.

David Torrans rounded up the event efficiently and then supplied me with the novel on my way out the door.

All-in-all it was an inspiring event, and one that gave me a feast for thought on my 30-mile drive home.

Incidentally, it was a pleasure to bump into a couple of young poets at the museum. All the best to Stephen Sexton and Stephen Connolly (and thanks for the free magazine, Mr Connolly), both PhD students at QUB, and a dapper pair of gentlemen. They made me wish I'd ironed my shirt.

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