There is a hill between me and the post office. It’s a five minute walk that feels a bit like climbing Everest. A few minutes on the sidewalk and a few more on the footpath that bends around behind the houses and ends at the corner shop. The footpath is often overgrown with nettles to one side and assorted foliage bursting out of the fences on the other. The view on the way back down the hill is incredible. Just as you turn onto the footpath from the Crigglestone high street (a very high street), you see the sprawl of West Yorkshire’s hills casting over the terraced houses. A very British vision, if I may say so. It is often this vision that drags me out to the post office when I’d really rather not go.
On the other hand, I can’t imagine ever not wanting to go to York. I love York. The walls, the gates, the stonework, the preservation of a history so immense I can’t fathom it. There are ghosts and graves and the Minster is a thing of beauty rising up over the cobbled, winding streets. It just so happened that the event we attended on Wednesday night was held on Stonegate, right next to one of our favorite shops!
The event was the York Speakers’ Corner and we were there to listen to Amal El-Mohtar read from The Honey Month. Many of the people who read this blog already know just how lovely Amal’s voice is, and how well she can use it. I knew it, I’ve listened to her podcasts, but this was the first time I’ve seen her read in person. It was wonderful for me to see her speak the words I fell in love with, first when I read them on her blog and then again as I edited and laid out the text. As if this wasn’t enough, she read the piece that moves me most of all, a tragic and haunting poem that just breaks my heart.
Before we got to hear her read from The Honey Month, however, she slayed us with Song for an Ancient City, the poem that won the 2009 Rhysling Award. Please understand that I love this poem so much that I’ve printed out the version her father translated into Arabic and have it hanging on my studio wall. And so, when Amal began reading it in Arabic… well, I’m tearing up right now just thinking about how lovely was the sound.
Adrienne J. Odasso, who helps organise the monthly event, also has a title forthcoming from Papaveria. She read some of her work as well, including what I think is the best poem I’ve read this year. You’ll find it in the Goblin Delirium issue of Mythic Delirium. Issue 22, The Trickster Issue, was co-edited by Amal and Jessica P. Wick (the two responsible for the incomparable Goblin Fruit). The poem is called The Second Wife and if it doesn’t get nominated for an award, I’m going to throw a fit. To hear Adrienne read this piece solidified my opinion of its worth.
I don’t want to leave out the other fine poets who attended the event, but there were too many to name them all. It was a magical night, one full of words and wine, friends and an ancient and very British city built of gates and stone.
[Header photo credit: Wikimedia, “York Minster, view from city walls”, Krystian Hasterok, 2006.]