Review: A moving night of readings by Motion
Andrew Motion cuts a deceptively genteel figure when reading from a lectern, but increasingly his work has drawn its inspiration from the World Wars of the 20th century and recent engagements in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The interest is as much familial as historical, his grandfather having fought in the trenches, while his father was involved in the recently commemorated D-Day landings.
Indeed, he dates this growing obsession from both his father's death and the sloughing off of the burden of being poet laureate.
A lot of what Andrew Motion read last night was new material, concerned with history and mortality.
From a cartographer's journey to the cosmos – "a simple man/throwing his spears at the star" – to the boys' own adventure of Mallory's doomed Everest climb in Sightings.
Perhaps the most compelling new work was The Gardener based on Motion's conversations with Margaret Everson whose son died from injuries in Afghanistan.
Though a work in progress, it was often heartbreaking.
Part of this was because of Motion's compelling and intimate reading style, which was particularly effective on more familiar material such as The Death of Harry Patch.
A lively Q&A session saw him confessing his ambivalence towards the kind of public art demanded by the role of poet laureate.