Last night, a celebration of the life and work of the poet Michael Donaghy was held at The Purcell Room, at the South Bank Centre.
The evening consisted of readings by the poets Simon Armitage, Paul Farley, Sean O'Brien, Don Paterson, Eva Salzman, Jo Shapcott, John Stammers, Greta Stoddart and Michael's widow, Maddy Paxman, all of who each read three poems: one by Donaghy, another from his last collection Safest, and finally one of his favourite poems.
I'm not familiar with his work at all, but went with someone who attended his inspirational writing classes. What was immediately apparent was the mischievious warmth and vast intellect of the man. Various references were made to his 'sociability' and I got the feeling that some of the poets would have preferred to have honoured their friend with a hefty drink in their hand, and in a less formal venue.
There were a few very short clips ( seconds long ) of him goofing around, interspersed between the readings, and right at the end of the evening, a film of him reading, or rather, performing his poem Fire and Ice. The film footage of this was supplied by Paul Beazley, who was once a member of The Clock House Writers, a writers group that I belonged to in the early eighties and which met in a community centre in Woolwich, South London.
Once a week a group of between 5 and 10 writers met in the eaves of a tall building (directly under the clock) to read our work. It was run by a poet called Chris Cardale, who performed his poetry under the name of Zolan Quobble. Inspired by Chris, the group, including myself, performed our work on various occassions in various venues (mainly pubs) and were involved, during the Miner's Strke, in a ' twinning ' programe with a writer's group in Easington, County Durham. We went to their place, and they came to ours, and a joint publication was produced of writing and poetry.
At the end of the Donaghy evening I recognised Paul Beazley (it would have been twenty years since we last met) and we got chatting. Paul runs a production company, and Chris Cardale is currently running writing workshops which meet every Tuesday evening at The George, in Tanners Hill, Deptford.
Donaghy at NightWalking: Navigating the Unknown, The South Bank Centre, September 2002
Donaghy reading a few of his poems