On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of attending an event so understated, and yet so powerfully moving that it will be a long time before I forget it. Entering the slightly cramped, but cosy and welcoming atmosphere in Lighthouse Bookshop, I was initially struck by the people in the audience. Many were poets themselves, and had led fascinating lives at the forefront of world events, bearing witness to things that would likely make my stomach churn. Nevertheless, I was left with the powerful impression that these people were the backbone of our community, and it was a reminder of how lucky we are to live in this city.
The event consisted of poetry reading from A Kind of Stupidity, the latest anthology published by the Dove Tales group of artists. The group was founded with the recognition that “Good story-telling…teaches us understanding of our fellow human beings, tolerance, empathy and compassion”, challenging the culture of militarism and working to promote global peace and reconciliation. Jean Rafferty began the event by discussing the devastation in the Yemen, and her righteous fury at the UK’s continuing arms sales to the Saudi government (£4.6 billion since 2015) was a sobering introduction.
Then the poets began to step up and read aloud their material. All of it was timely, poignant, and furious: some of it was truly quite moving. A standout was Allen Cameron, whose glowing introduction praised him as a man who “practised internationalism in his day-to-day life”. His material was focused on Europe, and was frequently striking in the depth of its historical reflection and the naked force of its language. Other impressive material came from Lesley Traynor, whose ‘Dancing at La Gare’ was uniquely life-affirming, and Jean Rafferty, whose poem ‘Exodus Rwanda’ was a harrowing reminder that violence can all too easily spring from ignorance and misunderstanding.
This event presented poetry as its own kind of performance; the cadence of some poets added lustre and force to their words (such as Ray Evans, whose imaginative remix ‘Jerusalem Revisited’ was enhanced by his gravelly and ponderously rhythmic voice). More than anything, A Kind of Stupidity imparted a useful kind of anger, but what made this event so worthwhile was that it restored some of my faith in the optimism and decency of the people that I share a country with, and for that I am truly grateful.
‘Dove Tales: Voices from Scotland’s Peace Movement’ took place at Lighthouse Bookshop on 8 March 2018.
Image: Mike Kline via Flickr.