Gin and Vice in Georgian London

Debauchery in De Beauvoir? For our September meeting we enjoyed a hugely entertaining and informative talk from Eleanor Bloom about Georgian London and the culture of gin houses and the darker side of the East End. How the madness associated with gin was due to a blight on the grain and why they really wore those stupendous wigs. We also enjoyed some delicious gin cocktails and a lemon and cucumber cake with gin icing.

Plus Jessie from Solace Women’s Aid told us more about the work they do with women and children fleeing domestic violence and explained how our monthly donations are used in the welcome packs they give every family arriving at the refuges they run across London

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Magical moments with the local poet Marina Evans

Unique, funny and charming are all words that describe the Irish-born local poet and novelist Martina Evans who read from her collected works at April’s meeting. Ahead of the launch of her new collection, Burnfort, Las Vegas, Martina treated us to excerpts of prose and poems both old and brand new. Originally from County Cork Martina kept us enthralled by drawing us into her personal and imaginative world. She was initially shy about reading to us, but as we hung on her every word and we were spellbound by poems such as Frank O’Hara and Oysters her confidence grew. Mixing up the ordinary with the extraordinary (Donny the cat featured heavily as did references to local London history and Shakespeare) she told us how she learnt her craft and now teaches at Birkbeck College.IMG_3533

As a child she always had her head in a book and told us that she started out on her creative writing career (first novels and then her true love poetry) because she, “loves telling stories and I love fairy tales too.” She finished the evening with a Q&A and we learnt that… She writes best… “Early in the morning, the earlier the better”. Nothing is wasted. She’s a natural poet because… “I like intensity. When I started writing I had done the Artist’s Way (a guide to unblocking your creativity) and it changed my life. It was absolutely transformational.” The saying may be that everyone has a novel in them… “But, I think that everyone has poetry in them.” Her next book is… “All about teenagers.”

Marina has kindly sent some links to some of her work and readings:

Here is the link to new prose poem Now We Can Talk Openly About Men on RTE RADIO which was published in The Stinging Fly magazine, it starts after a couple of minutes:

I also promised to send this essay I wrote for the Royal Literary Fund. 

And an essay on the prose poem.

And the wonderful Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize-winner talking on memory and experience and happiness: