John Hudson: a force of nature – 5 October

Today is World Poetry Day. What better day to be recalling yesterday evening spent in the presence of John Hudson, a force of nature in the world of poetry.

With an eye-watering list of diverse credentials to his name, I began to realise that we were about to experience a poet with a unique capacity for creative invention: I was not wrong.

We were whisked along on his breathless, enthusiastic tour of the many poetic forms in which he has written, with everything from an evocative, traditional sonnet, “The Hunter”, celebrating rural French life now under threat, to his memorable finale, a striking piece of performance poetry, called “A Stitch in Time”.

First, however, listeners were called upon to use more than their sense of hearing as John challenged us to imagine the visual aspects of his installation pieces, such as the sequence of thirteen poems installed in a tiny French chapel, accessible only through a peephole in the otherwise blacked out building. With the recordings of poems, “Thirteen Souls in Search of a Light Switch,” playing to the  accompaniment of flickering lights piercing the darkness, listeners there were encouraged to see the search for light as symbolic of a search for a course through life.

Most moving for me was the section where he shared the raw, rough workings of poems which have been tumbling out in the light of time spent in the company of his elderly mother who is now lost in a misty maze of dementia. “The Coin” and “The Mirror” evoked the poignancy of dealing with the deteriorating mind of a loved one, and he urged us all to use such life altering experiences as our raw material.

Further advice included a warning not to force creativity but to let ideas flow through onto the page but also to be open to criticism, an important tool from which writers can grow and develop. On the subject of publishers versus self-publishing, he was clear: for poets, self-publishing is always going to be more financially beneficial.

Talking of publication, John shared pieces from his latest book, “The Road Taken” which offers sets of poems to accompany three favourite walks of his, in Britain and France.  Most fascinating for me is the way in which he embraces technology to allow poetry fans to hear the site specific poems on their phones with the use of QR expertise (standing for ‘Quick Response’: the ubiquitous blocks of black and white patterns, similar to bar codes, which link to digital information), an idea which he encouraged AYR WRITERS’ CLUB to explore, perhaps using our poetic writing skills to describe our own environment and bring it digitally to a new audience.

Then, with the performance piece to round off the evening, he finished as energetically as he’d begun, leaving us with much to ponder upon.  The piece reminded me, in a way, of the arresting performance from the emerging talent of Kate Tempest, on BBC2 recently, which seems to signal a growing interest in the spoken word culturally in our nation.

Exciting stuff.


Carolyn O’Hara

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