The Highgate Poets are a lively and talented group of North-London-area poets with whom I have had the pleasure of associating for over a year now.
They have been publishing an anthology of member poems every other year since their founding in 1977. I am delighted to have two poems in their newest anthology, Urban Harvest, and pleased to announce that it is now available for sale online at their website.
The book ships throughout the UK, however you can also contact the group coordinator if you are interested in ordering from abroad.
How can one write poetry when language burns the tongue? For German-Jewish poets living in exile during the Holocaust, the banishment must have been double — not only from homeland, but language. For a poet like Paul Celan, words become as intractable as life itself. But through her careful translations, Ruth Ingram brings into English three exiled poets working within the German language through grief, disillusionment and guilt toward a kind of reconciliation. That is, these are survivor-poems that also represent poetry-as-survival.
The opening poem by Hilde Domin, a so-called “assimilated Jew” whose privileged life was upended by flight and exile, speaks chillingly to survivor guilt. “Build Me a House” begins, “The wind comes…” and describes it lifting old papers “like doves” and displacing us “like jellyfish” on shore. It is a gentle but inevitable force, against which she builds a pretty house. Finally, “the wind passes / like a hunter, / whose hunt is not / meant for us.”
I made my way down to Kentish Town this evening to hear four members of The Highgate Poets read their work. As a newly-accepted member of the group, I was treated to a brief history lesson about the venue by coordinator Anne Ballard before the evening got underway. It turns out that Torriano House is synonymous with Hungarian Anarcho-Communist Poet John Rety, who founded and ran it as a centre of poetry and social change in North London for many years before his death.
The open reading portion of the evening was just as eclectic as those I had attended in California. The flavour, though, was different. Two older gentlemen sang folk songs a cappella. Themes of opera, atheism, and of course anti-war sentiment peppered the poems from the floor. David Floyd promoted his new pamphlet entitled “Protest.” The walls were lined with ink drawings depicting the horrors associated with capitalist greed for oil. And at the back table, a periodical called Peace News replaced what had typically been promoted at Torriano House — The Daily Worker.
The featured poets themselves took up less directly political themes. Continue reading…