Review: Penned in the Margins – Iain Sinclair, John Wilkinson, Emily Critchley & Rob Stanton

Iain Sinclair

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending the latest event from the pioneering literary press, Penned in the Margins. Now, I might seem a little biased in this review as I was asked along to provide a musical backdrop to the night’s proceedings. As an almost insider, I’m bound to say that the night was a roaring success. (It was.) I’ll try to be as objective as possible.

Penned in the Margins director, Tom Chivers

The first thing to mention, and the first of many talents of literary wunderkind and PitM director Tom Chivers, is the location. The Nave is a converted church on the Islington/Hackney border. It’s a beautiful space anyway, but for PitM it ascended to ‘that perfect location’. There is a lot to be said for finding the right setting for an event and Chivers never fails to do so. Four poets took to the stage and each one was elevated by the resonance of the building.

The heavy hitters Iain Sinclair and John Wilkinson, took command for the second half of the night and showed exactly why they are seasoned veterans still going strong on the literary scene. Sinclair closed the night with excerpts from the psychogeographic works that are fast making him a household name. From the changing temporal landscape of an east end high street to poetical postcards describing snapshots of a travelling history, his style of narrative description is one that can never be replicated.

Though these big names were the main draw for the evening’s audience, the opening poets, Rob Stanton and astounding experimental poet Emily Critchley (both published by PitM) launched the proceedings in superb form. Stanton read from his debut collection The Method, for which the night was in part a celebration. His choice of sonnets, each one based on a painting by Belgian artist Luc Tuymans, soar from minimally austere to viscerally descriptive. Critchley’s poetry, read in her uniquely wistful yet matter-of-fact tune, to deconstruct the lyrical poem, stripping it bare and showing that underneath it all, the notion of loss is always lurking. Whether that is a bad thing or not is for the listener to decide. In short, a beautifully wrought fuck-you to present and future romantic poets still scribbling with quills of naïveté.

The music wasn’t bad either, but more on that later.


To see more from Penned in the Margins (future events, published works, etc.) have a look here. Alternatively follow @pennedinthem.


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