An evening with Julia Usman


Our guest speaker explained that she usually wrote poetry or articles, but during a six-year stay in Dubai she had started to work on what was to become her second book, ‘A Little Country’.  Its origin was a series of poems written about growing up in a small community in Swaledale in the 1960s and 70s, and its title was taken from a line in Marie Hartley’s book about the same place.

Living in Dubai had given Julia the chance to reflect on Arabic culture and some of the similarities it bore to her own. As a child she had lived in a tight-knit community with traditional values and customs, now very much changed alongside its agricultural practices. Despite this, Julia still felt a strong sense of identity, not only with her ancestors, those Anglo-Saxon and Viking invaders, but with the land itself, which she knew would outlive those who ever farmed it. She offered her book as a ‘patchwork of recollections and reflections’, some of which she read to the group.

Ian thanked Julia for coming to talk to us, and then members were invited to ask questions. A lively discussion ensued.

After a break for refreshments, Julia read some poems from her book, ‘She Who Sings Is Not Always Happy’. These were ‘Child of Montmartre’ and ‘Finding a Voice’.

As there was a little time left over, members were also invited to share some of their latest work. Charlotte read two poems, ‘Pond Life’ and ‘The River Bed’.  Sheila involved members in a short play called ‘All In A Day’s Work’ about a woman finding a gecko in the fridge and Maggie read ‘Never Not Prepared’, a revised version of a poem about a school motto.

Our friendly group meets once a fortnight at the St Wilfred's Community Centre on Trinity Lane and is always open to new members from the Ripon area and beyond. Whether your interest is in poetry or prose, novels, short stories, plays, wacky humour, a more analytical style of writing, or just listening for the time being, you're very welcome.

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