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Last Shore Poets of the Year

02/12/2006
There was a good crowd in Mai Thai–the new Shore Poets venue–on Sunday night to hear Alan Hill, Jim C Wilson and Matthew Hollis. The readers strained a little bit to make themselves heard at the back, so I think we’ll might be using a small PA in future. Nonetheless, it was a good reading.
I particularly enjoyed hearing Matthew Hollis, as I’ve known him since we were students. When I pitched up at Edinburgh Uni as a fresher 11 (yikes!) years ago, I had the scantest knowledge of contemporary poetry. Matthew–who was in third year at the time, I think–was the president of the Edinburgh University Poetry Society. I learnt a huge amount from hearing leading contemporary poets read their work on the society’s programme and from discussing my and other student writers’ poems at regular informal workshops.
Sadly, the EUPS has been in abeyance for some time. All enthusiasm, energy and support now seem to be focused on the Uni’s MSc in Creative Writing, which strikes me as unfair to any prospective writers outside that programme, especially but not only undergraduates. Neither Matthew nor I did English degrees, and there were plenty other student writers in departments other than English when we were at uni.
Matthew Hollis has gone on to make a name for himself, with a fine first collection from Bloodaxe entitled Ground Water. Last year, he held the Wordsworth Trust residency at Dove Cottage. On Sunday, he read a clutch of new poems, written during that residency. It’s a while since I read Ground Water, but I detected a greater maturing, a deepening and enriching of his voice in the new poems. They seemed to display a greater confidence, perhaps a stronger sense of emotional light and shade–not that emotional light and shade are lacking in Ground Water. What was certainly new was the engagement with landscape, specifically the landscape of the Lakes. It looked like he had a fair amount, so I’m hoping he’s not far off a second collection.
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