Jane Draycott at Manchester Central Library
Yesterday my wife and I heard Jane Draycott reading from her new collection, Over . We’d gone because I so admire the metrical skill and the strong yet subtle and delicate rhythmic and phonetic texture of The Night Tree. I was hoping to hear some of the poems from that volume (particularly “Because tonight the beach”). That didn’t happen, but it was a marvellous occasion. The new work is clearly very good and the poet’s reading style was a fine combination of a measured clarity that respected and reflected the metrical strength of the poems’ composition with an almost conversational lightness of touch that made them communicate very directly and intimately with the listener. Too often poems are spoken in a way that’s either too highly cadenced, subordinating their contents to their form, or they’re dramatised too strongly, with the result that they both lose shape and seem pushed at the listener, rather than spoken to him or thought aloud in his company. In this reading I felt that the quality of the performance both showed the sensitivity of Draycott’s attitude to her audience and reflected the sensitivity of the verse itself.
As we left, my wife wondered why we haven’t heard Draycott’s name in connection with the laureateship. We should.