A night out with poet Zena Edwards is like having a really good guest to dinner, without the food.
The Ellis Theatre at Marlborough College, for the first event of the Marlborough Literature Festival, has the look of a school hall-cum-theatre but the intimacy of Zena’s voice and her warm demeanor made it feel like a jazz club or cabaret bar.
I must admit I got a bit of a girl crush on her voice; it was born to read poetry and sing poetry. She made words like ‘rock’ seem firm not hard and ‘ocean’ like a rolling calmness.
Zena tells us she falls in and out of love everyday; she cries, she laughs and then plucks something from it to write about.
She slides from velveteen spoken word to beautiful sung words, accompanied sometimes by a double bass and always by hand movements and a little swaying of the hips. “I channel my anger into Salsa dancing,” she tells us. “Poetry, art and movement – I don’t know why they were ever separated. Poetry gave me musicality.”
Learning the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene at the age of twelve made her realise poetry and words were important to her and now: “Sometimes I don’t write for a while and I feel pregnant.”
We were caught up in a poem of an old homeless lady in cold central London, in a summer dress ‘with skinny cinnamon legs’ who sang her own version of the new age hymn ‘He’s got the Whole World in His Hands’.
Zena’s Ode to Poetry had the air of a love song to words, and her piece about laughter was an apt finish.
A fantastic appetiser of words for the rest of the festival.