Kathryn Bevis recently led a socially-distant poetry reading in Gilbert White’s Barn, as part of the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the naturalist’s birth. She asked two poets to join her: Stephen Boyce and me. As well as being a poet, Stephen is co-founder of the Winchester Poetry Festival and also its current Chair.
Kathryn is Hampshire Poet Laureate in this strangest of Covid years, and was able to arrange the reading under that umbrella. We were supposed to be talking to a barn full of people, but were actually just grateful we could go ahead at all. It is a beautiful building, with fairy lights in its rafters, and we only wished it could have been filled with an audience of poetry-lovers.
Most of our poems had a nature theme, in honour of Gilbert White. In fact, I was the least Gilberty out of anyone: Kathryn grew up very nearby, and Stephen revealed he shared a birthday with him. All I can claim is that I am probably about the same height as the tiny Gilbert.
I – of course – cannot stand hearing or looking at myself reading, and always think my performance could be improved with a bit more Kermit-flailing or jokes. Kathryn and Stephen, however, are both superb, and Matt Grover worked his magic over the filming.
Enjoy the reading: