4th January 2016, The Swan Hotel, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire BA15 1LN
Our first double bill of poets worked really well - their subject matter is very different, but Stephen Payne and Alison Lock both use language with a spare, neat precision that makes every word count, and we hung on to them all - even during the unexplained furniture-moving ceremony above the Cellar Bar, our roost for the night.
Speaking of roosts, Alison's poems are full of birds. "They fly in and out of my poems, I can't seem to stop them," she said, between murmurations and broken wings, jays and redshanks. Wildflowers grow through them, too - as R V Bailey says of her work: "her 'room' is the landscape, the seascape, the sky-scape of nature, in all its brilliant detail".
Stephen's 'room', if you like, is a virtual one in which he is thinking about thinking - and whether it's a seahorse, a cemetery or a London taxi driver that falls under his scrutiny, he provokes us gently with the playful, the wistful and the wise. There is zero sentimentality - try Peeling a Tangerine for Madeleine, for instance - but still you want to cry. Discuss.