author. Elliot Simpson


main image: Woodcutter - Sean Borodale


Coming from someone who isn't the biggest fan of poetry, Sean Borodale's reading from his new collection, Human Work, has been an early highlight of the festival. I wandered into the tent not knowing what to expect, with the cooker worktop that Borodale placed himself behind suggesting a cooking show of some sort. In fact I wasn't too far off, with there being a common theme throughout the poems the author read: food.

Borodale remarked that pretty much all cooking, when you get down to it, is about death - especially when meat is involved. This set the tone for the hour, with his work taking a more graphic, dark and weird approach to eating than you might expect. Not once does he describe the taste of food pleasantly or talk about one of his meals in a positive fashion - he's always questioning what we accept as normal.

This lead to some dark poetry - the darkest I've heard focusing on someone cooking and eating a kipper. 'What have I eaten?' Borodale read. 'What am I made of, what am I?' The way that his poetry dug into eating was slightly unnerving to say the least. His graphic descriptions of the kipper's preparation, his focus on the fish's dead face, made for eerie listening. Though Borodale read his poetry in a quiet voice, you could hear the force behind his words. It isn't the sort of food poetry that makes you hungry, but the sort that makes you realise how bizarre the idea of food really is.