This recording of Read's work for the Archive draws both from her first book and a sequential second collection, Broken Sleep (2009). Given her recurrent interest in the blurred boundaries between the tender and the visceral, it is perhaps unsurprising to find Read turning to the vicissitudes of childbirth and motherhood in her more recent work. The manner in which she addresses these subjects, however, is far from predictable. Often they serve as a stepping stone to broader themes: in 'Toddler', for instance, the position of a child asleep in the poet's arms recalls "new-shot pheasant / in the gentle mouths of dogs", while 'Gestation', a poem which can be heard in the online selection from this Archive reading, conjures the anticipation and anxiety before childbirth by linking the experience with the mysterious, beautiful Koi fish in "the fumy stomach of [an] old pond".
Elsewhere in the recording, a number of poems address the Italian landscape; Read having divided her time for many years between Suffolk and Italy. 'Castelsardo, Sardegna' and 'The Death Bell' in particular display something of Read's gift for suggestive, atmospheric description of the region; inviting the reader into the complex psychological experiences at the core of many of her poems. But it is in an impressive long poem, 'Kriah', that Read's poetry can be heard at its most ambitious: telling in first-person narrative the complex testimony of an elderly woman's ongoing emotional trauma. Here, as throughout her Archive recording, Read's voice is by turns delicate, precise and assured: confirming playwright Bonnie Greer's description of her work as "direct, searing, and very, very truthful".
Sally Read's recording was made on 9th October 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.