StAnza 2009 - Patience Agbabi and Carol Ann Duffy
Two contrasting women poets with a fondness for the sonnet form electrified the audience at their prime time reading on Saturday night at StAnza.
Patience Agbabi on her third visit to the festival read from her collection Bloodshot Monochrome published in Edinburgh by Canongate. She interspersed dark introspective poems such as The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe with funny snappy ones describing her love of music and ‘mod’ fashion.
Carol Ann Duffy took over from her for the second half and commanded the complete attention of the audience. Her pared down style conveyed everything she imagined. Her ability with words is arresting and her delivery was deadpan and humorous in turn. In Mrs Midas she imagined the wife’s reaction in the myth of Midas as his wish becomes a curse as everything he touches turns to gold. Similarly the wife of Tiresias, who angered the gods and was obliged to spend seven years as a woman. The wife becomes very fed up with his feminine self who has to retire to bed for a week afflicted with the monthly bleed most women take in their stride.
Many of the poems she read were alive with humour, wryness, and great insight. Towards the end of the show, and it was a real performance, reading from her 2005 collection Rapture, she turned to love. The intensity of feeling inspired by love and passion were lyrically expressed in series of wonderful sonnets.
Carol Ann Duffy is a poet it is wonderful to hear live but equally also to read and re-read. Patience Agbabi perhaps more of a poet's poet - with the attendant challenges. Both most worthy to perform at this prime time StAnza position.