Carol Ann Duffy & Jackie Kay
Two poets who are by no means new to Hull, Carol Ann Duffy & Jackie Kay read for 40 minutes each to a full house. After the disappointing turnout for Michael Donaghy and Matthew Sweeney at Hull Central Library earlier in the festival, I had wondered whether contemporary poetry was capable of drawing the audiences it used to. During the nineties, both these writers read here to audiences of around 200 people. It was good to see such a strong turnout, and I wonder whether the poor showing for Donaghy and Sweeney might have been due to the choice of venue and midweek booking.
Duffy and Kay read from their recent work - Kay largely from her prize winning novel 'Trumpet' (about transsexual jazz trumpeter Joss Moody) and Duffy read from her most recent adult collection 'World's Wife'. These two writers complement each other in reading styles; Kay's great sense of humour and spontaneous asides balancing the more ironic and thoughtful work by Duffy. Kay is a reader of great warmth, and the audience clearly responded to this. Dealing with controversial and sometimes difficult subjects of sexuality, race and identity, Kay conveyed both sensitivity and wit. Duffy, the more experienced writer, restricted herself to work which she has read here before, which was slightly disappointing. As ever though, the work was given new layers of meaning through Duffy's commentary.
These two are clearly great favourites with the Hull audience, having read many times in the Bete Noire series organized by John Osborne. Both expressed their pleasure at being in Hull again.