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Ruth Padel at Length


Went to hear Ruth Padel read at a Poetry Association of Scotland event in the Scottish Poetry Library last night. She’s an interesting writer–possessed of erudition, intellect and striking emotional intelligence–and an engaging reader.

The reading included a spellbinding performance of the long title poem from her latest collection, The Soho Leopard, from memory. It’s rare to hear poets recite their work without looking at the page–AB Jackson is one of those rarities–even when it’s short, let alone 175 lines. Interestingly, Padel read most of the short poems but performed from memory “The Soho Leopard” and another long poem, “Writing to Onegin”, from a previous collection. Neither poem rhymes or has a particularly repetitive (and, therefore, easily memorisable) rhythm.

“The Soho Leopard” is also quite discursive, which is one of its glories. Having read it on the page, I had not expected to find it quite so accessible in performance as I did, but perhaps my previous exposure to it aided my appreciation of its architecture. Somebody obviously found it less engaging and took up Padel’s (self-evidently genuine) invitation to tell her if we found it too difficult to follow. But I could have listened to it over again.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob Mackenzie permalink
    31/03/2006 13:14

    I am jealous! Unfortunately Wednesday evenings are useless for me as I always have meetings on, so I never get to these events.

    I also enjoyed The Soho Leopard on the page, and I thought her 52 Ways of Looking At a Poem had a lot of good advice on craft.

  2. Andrew Philip permalink
    31/03/2006 14:32

    My first comment!. Now I feel like a true blogger. Thanks, Rob

    It’s not quite the same as having been there, but the Poetry Archive (see my links under “Words…”) CD of Ruth Padel includes “The Soho Leopard” and “Writing to Onegin”. Unfortunately, neither is one of the tracks available to hear on the website.


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