Nguyen Phan Que Mai (call her Que Mai) is a Vietnamese poet and writer, the bulk of whose work addresses a poorly explored past – that of the impact of the Vietnamese war on its survivors, often through the eyes of women and their families. Here, she reads in English which is not her favoured language, (and when you hear her deliver her work in Vietnamese with all its bells and chimes of nuance you instantly know why) and reaches deep to lift our comparatively dull tones with a breath that floats her words into our shared air. Que Mai is the author of The Secret of Hoa Sen which I reviewed elsewhere, and this year performed her poem for International Women’s Day at a United Nations event.
Soft Irish tones for A Soft Day. Anne’s story is about family, dislocation, loss, and discovery.
“He leaves Da’s chair empty and sits looking at it as though he can see him in the indent forged by his bum. They’ve re-invented him, into a saint that wouldn’t be seen dead in the bookies – wouldn’t be seen dead, ha!“
Ian McMillan is a poet, broadcaster, and presenter of BBC Radio Three’s The Verb, a programme that celebrates the spoken (and sung, and chanted, and pounded, and whispered) word. Ian’s appreciation of language; its flows and rhythms and its very many forms are what drew me to listening weekly to his programme. His way of showing language as living thing that can dance on the page if you let it out of the reverential box it sometimes gets trapped in led to me ask if he would consider writing this piece for us.
Ian is a Yorkshireman; he writes the way he speaks, and he speaks with a voice like a pint of strong dark beer in a big dimpled glass. So ease yourself into the soft-padded fireside seat of your favourite minds-eye pub, take that big glass in your hand – both hands if necessary – and give your minds-ears a treat.
“Sometimes I can read a poem on the page and I can’t quite make out what the author’s intention was: there’s something there, I can tell, but it’s hidden in the language-mist. When I hear the poem read aloud, (or accompanied by music, or acted out by a variety of voices: anything is possible once you start down this road) then the clouds are blown away and the poem does what it meant to say on the tin, to re-fashion an advertising slogan.”
Tracy has given us three sharply wicked stories about relationships: Phoenix and Marilyn – a story of courage and survival; Wood, which lulls us with the ordinariness of a couple’s mis-communication then becomes something entirely different; and Tantric Twister that celebrates the Boomer generation and is definitely not one for the kids!
Let Me Tell You a Story is the title of a forthcoming anthology which expects to do just that – tell you the story. It will also read you the poems; give you the long pauses, the quick steps, the rushes and hushes of words and lines that sometimes are hard to find for yourself. And the voices will be the authors’ own.
The words are on the page, the voices working their way into the can, and we hope to be on some shelves very soon.