Shindig at The Western
Monday 16th July
Of course it was wet outside but the atmosphere in The Western pub was predictably warm and convivial. Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators presented another eclectic night of open-mic poetry and suitably chosen guest readings by Robin Vaughan-Williams, Maria Taylor, Alan Baker and Kim Moore. This was a special night because it was also the launch of Maria Taylor’s superb first collection, Melanchrini, published by Nine Arches, more of which later. The standard of the open-mic poets was, as always, very high, and we were transported via various weathers through space, place and time and a with compelling mix of the real and the invented.
Jayne Stanton opened the open-mic slots . ‘Flown’ vividly recalled a father,’whisky-winged’, in a favourite pub, who sings, ‘ as if you were Vic Damone’, at which point Jane sang resonantly . This was a melodic and finely pitched start to the evening. In ‘The last man to remain unidentified,’ Robert Richardson recalled a victim of the 1987 fire at King’s Cross underground station and his reconstruction, as a result of art and psychology, after 16 years, before which being, ‘as anonymous as a prehistoric man’, whose death was ‘itemed as lost property that someone’s still to call for’. Richard Byrt’s poetry is measured, crafted and packs a wry punch. In ‘My backyard Bannockburn’, ‘a single thistle stands in spite of bloody Tams’ testimony to the resilience of weeds. Tracy Twell’s arresting ‘SISP’ (‘Sensory Insect Stealth Project’) was voiced by a bee,‘a buzz of dark, not of our making’; the training where at first the bees, ‘had a laugh, seeing each other strapped up’. The more sombre side of the poem was reinforced when we learnt that its source was a You Tube video showing scientists training honey bees to detect explosives. Simon Perril congratulated recent graduates on the Creative Writing course at De Montfort University, several of whom are regular Shindig attendees. Archilocus was an ancient Greek poet whose work was characterised both by lyricism and invective. ‘Archilochus on the moon’ was a dramatic monologue , ‘Tomorrow I’ll take my fingers to the surface of the moon’, whose imagery and auditory effects intensified its emotional intensity, ‘ I’ll take out the seat of my rage/ from its bare cage, and squeeze’. Deborah-Tyler Bennett’s ‘Hangar Lane Blues’ recalled John Cooper-Clarke’s ‘Beesley Street. I enjoyed her balladic re-working of earlier poems. Other honourable mentions are Graham Norman’s and Maria Ronner’s good-humoured ‘joint’ translation of ‘Ein Mensch’, by German poet Eugene Roth; Gary Longden’s paean to Radio Caroline; Jo Twist’s elliptic Blakean poems, ‘ a spoken song pitched on one note/learnt by heart and not by rote’.
The four guest poets were equally as strong as they were different. Robin Vaughan –Williams’s latest pamphlet, The Manager , is published by Happenstance Press. ‘The Manager sits behind the curtains’. In this instance, the same line was used in three different poems which he read as one. I liked his experimental approach to his poems generally; poems that had correspondences between them such as ‘The Wind’, poems 1 and 2.
‘Melanchrini’ means ‘dark-featured’. Maria Taylor’s poem drew on her Greek heritage and traced aspects of her relatives’ lives in London and Cyprus. ‘Felling a Maiden’ recalled her own giving up of her Greek maiden name, ‘She would no longer be foreign and hard to spell’. The poem to one of her twin daughter’s Rosie before she was born was affecting, ‘I stroke your head under my flesh, the moon curve of you. ‘Larkin’ is a tour-de-force and will resonate with English teachers everywhere, ‘We’re gonna crack this Larkin like a nut’, concluding, ‘I’m better now, cured of Larkin’. It is a spirited and witty poem. Maria’s reading was spirited too and her work has considerable range and depth.
Alan Baker runs Leafe Press in Beeston, Nottingham. His collection, Variations on Painting a Room, is published by Skyshill Press. The name Chilwell in Nottingham derives from ‘Child’s Well’ and its army base was once a munitions factory . This is poetry of sound and sight, ‘Time and again, night drags deeper its heat’, ‘tug of fever loosens its hold’, ‘presences slide into shadows’. Baker’s range is wise and formally innovative, witnessed for his example in his prose poems in The Book of Random Access which are based on the 64 hexagrams in the I-Ching, The Book of Changes. There is skilful patterning and adroit repetition; a preoccupation with seasons and weathers. In ‘Today the Snow’, ‘Protect the Night Snow and don’t allow it to be fooled’.
Kim Moore was one of the winners of The Poetry Business Competition and the poems she read from her resulting pamphlet, If We Could Speak like Wolves, were gems. Moore’s delivery is confident and resonant not least in her strong opening poem, ‘The Wolf’,’the one who carries the wind in his belly’. Her confession that she didn’t know what this poem was about won me over instantly. I enjoyed her whole set but will also single out ‘Teaching the Trumpet’, ‘Imagine you were drinking a glass of air’, ‘Tuesday at Wetherspoons’, ‘All the men have comb-overs..’ and her poem which recalled a boxing-match in reverse, ‘Begins with you on the floor..’ Kim Moore is a striking, original new voice and, as they say, one to watch.
All in all, this was another scintillating Shindig.