On 22 December 2023 MayDay Radio hosted a non-broadcast collective reading of Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day. We met at 10:00am and followed a fairly strict timetable, in order to finish reading at sunset: 15:54. We tried to finish the reading on the roof but it started to rain so we came back down to the kitchen to wrap up. For lunch we ate salads, sweet potatoes, various cheeses, mince pies, and apricot tart. Throughout the day we tried to experiment with different ways of reading the text aloud, sometimes one line at a time, other times sections. Occasionally the poem provided us with the form with which to read it. Parts of the book made us laugh out loud. We started a readers’/visitors’ book at the start of the day, but not everyone signed it. After the event we went to the pub together and one poet in attendance told Lizzie that Bernadette Mayer had changed their life, insofar as she had given them a sense of permission to write themselves.
Sam Dolbear and Lizzie Homersham
Berlin and London
7 February 2024
We wanted to include an email from Bridget Penney, as a final reflection on the event:
Dear Sam and Lizzie,
It was a privilege and a pleasure to take part. Thanks to everyone who was there. I was moved and engaged by the day. A lot to think about, still processing.
It's such a great way to read through a text, the shared energies of speaking and listening carry the words 'out' off the page and into the room. I find that extremely interesting because for me, at any rate, writing and reading are usually very private activities. I think when I get back to the text (I need to catch up on the second half of Part 2) I will have this communal reading in my head.
If you host another reading of 'Midwinter Day' next year I would love to come, if I'm able. Intrigued to see what would strike me about the text on a second shared reading, I imagine different elements will grab my attention because others will now be familiar. Would need to remind myself not to be waiting for 'the second dentist' in the list of shops and the 'Three Little Pigs' in the kids' bedtime reading section. Can I just comment how brilliant that section was, and also that I don't think I have ever come across the experience of reading to and with young children addressed so cogently. Perhaps it felt extra relevant in the context of the shared reading since I guess earliest experience of text is often through being read to.
If you have any additional photos or ephemera from the day, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org