December’s Hubbub was a little less lively than usual as winter ailments took their toll on audience and guests alike. Disappointingly, special guest and songwriter, Julia Gray, was unable to attend so instead of a musical climax to the evening, Russell Celyn Jones stepped in to treat us to a sneak preview of his new novel.
Starting us off was MA Creative Writing student and Managing Editor of The Word Factory, Alison Hitchcock, whose short story, ‘The Book Club’, probed the soft underbelly of the suburban book club to uncover a hotbed of lust and romantic intrigue.
She was followed by fourth year BA Creative Writing student, Narayani Guibarra, whose two contrasting poems, ‘The True Tale of the Giant’s Causeway’ and ‘Ancestry’, introduced Medusa to the world of Irish mythology and explored her local area of South East London through a series of walks.
Next up was Londoner Esther Poyer who completed the MA a couple of years ago and read an excerpt from her novel Pieces of a Dream—a sensual and evocative rendering of an imagined past from a rich Guyanese legacy.
More poetry followed from Hubbub regular and recipient of a Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize, Tarquin Landseer, who touched on the invisible boundaries between human and animal in his poems ‘The Stag Affray’ and ‘In Praise of the Dung Beetle’.
Last reader in the first half was part-time MA Creative Writing student, Dave Wakely, who features in The Mechanics’ Institute Review 10. Dave rushed from his poetry class at Birkbeck to read ‘Chestnuts’—a story set in Bosnia-Herzegovina in April 1992 in which the childhood game of conkers provides a poignant counterpoint to the onset of the Bosnian War.
After a short break and a wrestle with the microphone stand special guest Astrid Alben; poet, essayist, translator and reviewer, started the second half with a poem from her first collection Ai! Ai! Pianissimo. ‘In the Event of My Death’ was followed by ‘The Other Country’, written from the point of view of a male alter-ego, B. She considered whether a previous lover was at least ‘good material’ before reading ‘Why’, a love poem, and introduced ‘The Light Switch’ with the confession that she watches daytime TV when stuck for inspiration. After a new poem on “the brutality of Trellick Tower” the audience were invited to choose her last poem by calling out a page number so we were treated to page 7, or ‘Schöngeist’. Astrid is currently working on her second collection.
Finally, a guest who needed no introduction, author of seven novels and Director of Birkbeck’s Creative Writing Programme, Russell Celyn Jones stepped up to the mark to read from a new, unpublished work. The short section dwelt on the aftermath of a traumatic event—a ‘kettling’ during the G20 riots—for a group of Iraq War veterans and their therapist.
Click on each reader’s name to hear the recording of their piece or check under the ‘Audio’ section of the Writers’ Hub. Details of the next Hubbub—the first of 2014—will be announced in January. In the meantime, enjoy the festive season and Happy New Year!