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Green Light in the City

Dan Tunstall and Eireann Lorsung

2 February 10 words: Robin Lewis
Football violence and poetry aren’t the most obvious bedfellows, but it certainly worked at The Flying Goose
Dan Tunstall read from his debut novel 'Big and Clever' with Eireann Lorsung

Football violence and thoughtful meditations on travelling, love and the night sky aren’t the most obvious bedfellows, but at the latest evening of readings put on byShoestring Press at The Flying Goose Café in Beeston those were the matters at hand.  The guest writers wereDan Tunstall, whose first novel, Big and Clever, was put out byFive Leaves Publishing last year and Eireann Lorsung, whose poetry collection, Music For Landing Planes By has been published by Milkweed Editions.  This two-for-one deal came with a glass of wine in pleasant and intimate surroundings (made all the more intimate by the better-than-usual turnout filling every chair and stool on offer), the chance to chat with both writers during a break while everyone mingled, and cost all of three quid.

Tunstall’s tale of misfit youths finding companionship and a sense of place in the arms of the local football hooligan crew was first up, and after Dan had introduced himself and said a few words about his background (avid supporter of Leicester FC, would-be teenage horror writer, teacher and now writer) he launched into the first of three readings.  He read scenes from the point of view of two 14 year-old lads adrift in a new school and searching for the security of one of the many distinct groups visible in any school dinner hall, obviously drawing on his background as a teacher to lend them authenticity.  They fall, half by accident, into the sphere of a local hard kid, and from there become drawn closer to his world of organised violence on a Saturday afternoon.

Catching up with Dan afterwards, he confessed to being more used to a much younger audience, having read extracts from his book at local schools, but the readings made it clear that though his book might be aimed at a young adult audience, he had made it true to life enough for anyone who can remember their school days to relate to what was going on. His themes of isolation, bad choices, machismo and the strange tribal group dynamics and complex hierarchies that govern so much of our social lives are universal, though in school such things are magnified and perhaps feel more powerful than at any other time in our lives.  Look for an interview with Dan Tunstall on this site soon.

Eireann Lorsung - our local poetry hero

Eireann’s reading was as different from Dan’s as could be, and her poems spoke of love, the crisp winter back home in Minneapolis, the thoughts that go through one’s mind as you travel from here to there and the surprising beauty of such familiar places as a beach in East Anglia.  As always with a live reading, it’s great to hear the cadences and rhythm of a poem bought to life, and when the reader is as confident and clear as Eireann it’s especially pleasing.

After chatting to several other attendees (or, probably, anyone involved with the literary scene in Nottingham), it became clear that Eireann has acquired a reputation as a determined and indefatigable one-woman poetry festival.  She read from her first collection and selections of the many poems she’s written since, and obviously enjoys the experience of reading to a captive audience.  She put it to me afterwards that “Going to a reading is like meeting someone at a party and being charmed by them”, and though she thinks that reading a book of poems by oneself is more intimate and allows one to build a relationship with the text that is impossible when simply hearing them read aloud, she regards such events as “A chance to dispel some of the myth of the aloof poet”, showing people who believe poetry isn’t for them what they’re missing.  And, understandably, she adds, “to see people enjoying what you've made is a great feeling”.

She’s quick to put aside any suggestion that she’s transformed the poetry scene in Nottingham, and instead prefers to say that she’s simply added another element to the table, trying to replicate the kind of the literary life she enjoyed in Minneapolis.  She mentions the help she’s had from volunteers, the Literature Network and the Dean’s Fund at the University, but when you discover that she paid for the first reading she was involved in with her own money it’s clear that she’s unusually dedicated to her cause.  As several people remarked at the evening, it’s extraordinary that she’s had this much impact on the poetry scene in Nottingham in so little time.

I left with a copy of both books (both in lovely editions), and plans to make sure I caught future evenings in the series.  The next event from Shoestring Press at the Flying Goose Cafe on Chilwell High Road, Beeston is on the February 16th, when poets Andy Croft and WN Herbert will walk about their experiences on the Moscow Metro, and on March 16th it will be Deryn Rees-Jones and John Levett providing the readings.


Also upcoming in the Nottingham Poetry Series of events is a mini-workshop and open-mic night in the basement of Lee Rosy’s Tea Shop on February 3rd.

Lee Rosy's, 17 Broad Street, Hockley, Nottingham, NG1 3AJ (opposite the Broadway cinema). 


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