13th October, 2018
Palace Green Library
Review by Emily Pritchard
Owen Lowery’s poems span from Loch Lomond to Anfield football grounds, but for me the highlights of his reading were the poems about his wife Jayne. Owen is a tetraplegic, and in a beautifully realised poem, he described how Jayne sometimes tries to stay completely still for as long as possible, in an attempt to experience living as he does. It was an honour to be allowed a glimpse into their relationship. Owen’s poetry is clearly influenced by this stillness, and complemented by a great sense of clarity: of looking carefully and paying attention to those he loves, to art (including Paula Rego’s paintings), to the poetry of others (including the World War II poet Keith Douglas on whom Owen wrote his PhD), and to certain places in the world, whether or not he has visited them himself.
In the still quiet of the Palace Green Library café, a soundscape was created: the noise of the fabric at the top of the cathedral tower flapping violently in the wind overlapped with the constant reassuring breaths of Owen’s ventilator, like the sea sounding gently beneath everything. Owen’s poetry was delivered with a strong sense of timing and gravity as Jayne sat beside him holding the poems, and it felt as though their relationship, and his creative process, was a truly collaborative one.
Although the mood of the reading was reflective and calm, it was by no means sombre; Owen has a quick wit and a wonderful laugh. He read a series of poems from his recent project, Transitions, which has involved making an excellent short film that can be found on Owen’s twitter account: @OWLowery. Host Degna Stone summed up the event and Owen’s work perfectly, by quoting his poem ‘Now I think about it’: we left ‘touched by the things seen, but otherwise unchanged’.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.