Mslexia Competition Pamphlet Launch: Polly Atkin, Shadow Dispatches

On the afternoon of Saturday the 20th of April, Polly Atkin launched her debut pamphlet Shadow Dispatches with a reading that was by turns funny, unsettling and thought provoking.  Polly is a Grasmere resident with a long-standing connection to the Wordsworth Trust, having volunteered here for several years while working on her PhD.  In 2012 she won Mslexia Magazine’s first pamphlet competition with an entry described as ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest by its judge, Seren Books’ poetry editor Amy Wack.

It was this pamphlet that was launched last week, and it was easy to see why it was prize winning material.  Polly’s poems are deeply personal and full of feeling without ever being self-involved or at all restricted in their vision.  They are frequently underpinned by a wry sense of humour, an impression heightened by her lively reading style with a delighted smile playing across her face.  Her discussion of ‘The Glorious Fellowship of Migraines’ and the sharply written ‘This Book’ were amusing pieces, raising both laughter and an appreciation of her rhythmic use of language.

However, Polly is also a writer capable of the most vibrant and dramatic evocations to go with her lighter side.  ‘Mute’ captured the aggressive and ugly magnificence of a swan perfectly and was given a wonderful sense of depth by the accompanying story while ‘Kindling’ seemed to bring the cold Lake District winter and the frustrating warmth of a coal fire to vivid life.

There is also an ethereal, almost spooky quality to some of Polly’s poetry.  She introduced the four part piece ‘Other People Dream of Foxes’ with characteristic humour and a nod to her proud parents, but as she started reading it became clear that her work also contains serious depth.  The work is concerned with dreams-weird, uncomfortable dreams full of boiling bones, dragged corpses and floods of unsubstantial beasts.  After her initial introduction of this set of poems, she let the words speak for themselves and wove a disorientating net of uncomfortable, fox-related images.

Polly’s reading was preceded by several poems from the Wordsworth Trust’s poet in residence, Judy Brown, which provided a fitting start to the launch.  The afternoon ended with a question and answer session that offered some revealing insights into the processes behind the poems read by both poets.  Polly Atkin is clearly a talented poet with a whole host of strings to her poetical bow.  The launch was the perfect introduction to Shadow Dispatches.  The pamphlet will make you laugh and make you dream in an exquisitely conjured poetical landscape, and Polly’s reading gave us a perfect taste of that.

By Ben Reiss, April 2013

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