Responses to The Poetry of Wells and Field

By Anna Cathenka

It is 10.30 am on a damp, wild day in North Cornwall. I am sitting in a marquee, beset at every turn by industrious money spiders, making their own pattern-poems with their little black bodies on the white expanse of my paper. The event begins with Eduard Heyning’s improvised, mellow soprano sax, coursing a late-night jazz sound poem into the wet veins of this early morning.

Victoria Field and Philip Wells recite their poetry to us. Their work is worlds apart. Field uses what she refers to as “little words”– a reference to a quote from Wendell Berry: “The little words that come out of the silence like prayers”. It is almost a paean to Victoria’s poems; friendly whispers that catch you when you’re least expecting it. Wells is the masculine voice to Victoria’s feminine quietude. His words roar right inside you: shake you to your core. Wells’ poems are fast-paced, loud, everything opposite to Field, and yet neither is less powerful.

Each recitation is brought to a close (or alternatively, introduced) by a sound poem from Heyning. As one of the audience later tells me: “his music clears your mind in between these two very different poets.” My favourite sound poem is what sounds to me like a heated argument, a two-and-fro between a very light, feminine voice and a rough, deep masculine voice. While Wells and Field are in accordance, the piece nevertheless seems relevant. 

I spoke to some other audience members after the event to gage their reactions:

Philippa Bartlett from New Polzeath says: “I will remember this morning. I felt moved and inspired by the poetry.”

Friends and locals Mary Bishop, Di Maberly and Ricardo Dorich were blown-away by Philip Wells’ improvised poem. Ricardo, who gave Wells “Sea” – one of the three words Philip used as the basis of the poem along with “honey” and “hope” – says: “It was staggering. I am amazed at his ability to create a poem on the spot. I didn’t know whether he would use the noun sea or the verb see, but of course he used both!”

Di, who was sitting right in front of Wells as he was reciting his poems, described listening to his poetry as: “a heart and mind experience.” The friends all agree that Heyning’s music was a very important part of the event. Mary says: “I love poetry but I’m not a poet, I’m still learning. The poetry we heard today was amazing.”

Nathalia Bukia-Peters, a friend and collaborator of Field’s, says: “I enjoyed it immensely. It is the first time I’ve heard Eduard play and I loved it, the music really lifted the whole event.”

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