A Prescription of Hope

Dr Harbans Nagpal’s review of “A Prescription of Hope”

Arts Destination South Molton, a charity dedicated to encouraging and staging artistic events in South Molton, organized its first virtual poetry reading on Monday, 27th July 2020.

When you accept an invitation to a poetry reading, what do you expect? Will there be angry, bearded men full of fire and passion with flying spit? Will there be dainty girls who, tilting to one side with hand to ear, declare – “Hark, the singing bird in yonder tree!” Or will there be formidable intellectual types reading long, abstract poems you cannot comprehend? And how are you expected to respond – to applaud loudly, nod wisely or just emit that famous quiet sigh?

Happily, it’s possible to go to poetry meetings from which you come away satisfied, even energised, perhaps even with a few lines which stay with you all week, all month – even a lifetime. And not be worried how to respond…

The introduction told us we were going to hear poems on the theme of hope, from various angles. Your reporter was reassured by the serious atmosphere of the evening, and the subject could not be more pertinent, interesting or grave. We all know what it feels like to be optimistic for days, weeks, months, with inner hope, with inner light, with plans and projects. But there is also the other, darker side to the coin. We all also know how it feels to be pessimistic for days, weeks, months – with no hope, no light, no plans and no projects. We’re talking about hope and despair, optimism and pessimism, happiness and sadness. Where do they come from and what are they made of?

The event ran for about an hour. We were all ears. Some poems were by famous poets, some were home-grown, and a few even read by the writers themselves.

Essential for any poetry reading, every word was audible, with excellent audio technical support and superb diction, articulation and pace from the readers. Without written copies of the texts, everything depended on the audience hearing every word, in this the one and only reading, which was the case.

There were poems that were easy to understand, mixed with longer, harder poems, with two humorous poems to conclude, all blended into a general bathing of words and rhythms. You did not have that much time to ponder or reflect; a poem needs more than one listening, to give you its full import.

So this reading was really an invitation to go back to the texts, to read them again slowly.

But for now, it must be declared – this first Arts Destination South Molton poetry reading was a huge success.

And for all this, we must thank the organisers, the poets who wrote and read their own work here – a big thank you, along with the far away live poets whose poems were read.

And to the deceased poets we heard, we can say – your words are alive in South Molton.

Harbans Nagpal, ADSM supporter, Paris