Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Petrol by Martina Evans

Last night I went to the launch of Petrol by Martina Evans. I had heard her read before - she and I both read at The Sugar Lounge last year, which is where I fell in love with her work. Last night she performed several passages from Petrol from memory, which is quite a feat if you're a poet rather than an actor, and which she achieved with compelling charm even though the phone at the bar rang in the middle of it and, when unanswered, went to answerphone so that the message - from a prospective client of the pub we were in - was broadcast to the audience. In the end, the publisher (Peter Jay of Anvill Press) picked up the phone and said to the woman on the other end, 'Please ring back in an hour, or don't ring back at all.' And then Martina carried on.

Petrol is a poetic novella told in the first person from the point of view of Imelda, the youngest daughter in the household of a brutal man, Justin, who is considering getting married for the third time to a young woman called Clodagh. It tells of the rivalry and friendship between his three daughters, Justin's attempts to settle Clodagh into the household, and thirteen-year-old Imelda's feelings for nineteen-year-old Danny Boy. It takes place in rural Ireland in 1970 and there are references to cheesecloth shirts and desert boots, Ryan's Daughter and Night Gallery.

Martina won a Betty Trask Award for her first novel, Midnight Feast. She talks about her life and work in a podcast on Radio Gorgeous here.

Petrol is beautiful. For samples of Martina's poetry, you can go to her website. Here is Facing the Public. If you like that, you'll like Petrol.

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