Open Space with Philip Gross and Robert Walton

Philip GrossLast Thursday night we were treated to a myriad of images and rhythms from Robert Walton and Philip Gross, two local poets whose work covers a wide range of themes. You can tell that Walton has a musical ear, as each of his poems has a certain rhythm to it, from dancing grandfathers to suspicious canaries and stolen saxophones. Sax-burglar blues, the title poem from his recently published collection, combines word and saxophone in a tremendous burst of sound which brings the instrument to life.  

Philip Gross read a sequence of poems inspired by a small patch of woodland near his home, known as The Dingle. In fabulous contrast to the bright and exotic sounds of Walton’s poems, this particular piece was full of natural rhythms, gaps and silences, transporting us through a world of squirrels, birds observing humans, and butterflies in a ‘wonky orbit’ of their own making. It was interesting to hear him describe the process of writing this sequence. He explained that it began as a series of unconnected fragments jotted down in a small black notebook, as he passed through The Dingle on his way to the station. It only became a poem sequence much later.

Bob Walton - poet

Robert Walton (photo taken by Gordon Anderson)

In contrast, Robert Walton described his own writing process as “fairly chaotic”, saying that, even though he encourages his students to write every day and carry a notebook, he doesn’t always manage to do this himself. “The poems just come at me,” he explained, “and I have no idea where they’re going to end”. He also said that he always reads his poems aloud during the editing process, listening “to every sharp and flat” to get the right sound and rhythm for the piece.

There was some interesting discussion on the writing process, and an exciting announcement from the organisers of Open Space – a literary festival coming up in June. More details will be revealed soon…

Open Space is a monthly event which takes place at Cardiff Central Library.

Philip Gross’s latest collection Bright Acoustic is published by Bloodaxe Books.

Robert Walton’s collection Sax Burglar Blues is published by Seren. See him performing the title poem here.