Review of Poetry Alight at the Spark Café Lichfield on 15th May 2012.
Tuesday night saw the Second of an occasional series of Poetry events in Lichfield. The Lichfield Poets hosted their second event following the triumph of the first back in February.
As a Poetry event organiser, I am all too aware of the trepidation of following a successful first event with the second. It is the band working on their tricky second album. But they need not have feared, as our host Gary Longden took to the stage, the room was packed with both familiar faces and new, all hanging on his every word, all full of poetic expectations, all ready to be delighted, thrilled and taken to thoughtful places. The evening did not disappoint.
Gary was relaxed and wore his role as the MC with ease and comfort, with his amusing, respectful and enthusiastic introductions.
The evening’s performances featured three guest poets each with six minutes and nineteen supporting poets each with three minutes.
The evening started with the first of the guest poets, The Word Wizard from Buxton, Rob Stevens. Rob runs the Word Wizards Poetry Slam and is a regular reader at Spoken Worlds as he ventures south to share his wit and thoughtfulness with new audiences. It was good to see him as the guest poet with a longer set that showed his ability to make you laugh with his well crafted poems “Doesn’t Look Like a Poet”, which was an observation he perceived of how others view him and perhaps the rest of us jobbing poets. He followed this with two amusing animal poems the first featuring Geoffrey the flatulent Giraffe and the second Hiawatha on a bear hunt. Rob also has a serious side that he brings out in poems such as his final piece on the Hospice. This resonated against the background of the humour of his early pieces and so was a tender reminder of the fragility of life. Rob has a voice that takes you with him, his tone settles you to what is to come, slipping easily from the comic to the serious; he is a master at holding an audience. Rob not only set the high standard for the evening but also created an atmosphere that enabled the following readers to relax into their pieces.
Rob was followed by Jane James from Wolverhampton and regular reader at Bilston Voices, Jane mused on Love in a world of snoring, how her snoring partner did not annoy her and she gloried in this sign of life. She delivered this from memory and was able to engage the audience with her words on the roar of the snore, it showed you were alive and Jane showed she too is very much alive through her well versed observations.
Gary Carr from Burton, where he runs Spoken Worlds followed with a selection from his new poems where he is exploring how to lift words from the page and engage with wider audiences. His first poem
“Every Day Just Lifts Me a Little Higher”, explores how as individuals we can make the world a better place, just by enjoying it and revelling in all that life has to offer. Gary followed this with “The Cinder Path Story” exploring our pre-conceptions through Little Red Riding Hood. His final piece Dear Diary, observes that our fellow pupils of 30 years ago are no longer the people we recognise or they us, that our lives though lived in the same town since our shared education do not create bonds that are lasting.
David Calcutt followed and seems to be haunted by delays at this event last time it was a group of exiting knitters from the room upstairs and this time by the tones of the coffee machine as steam was pumped into an emerging Latte. This however does not worry David who delivered a wonder poem with multiple voices that one would expect from this accomplished writer. Dinmore Woods is an epic journey through nature, full of voices that stretch from England over the border into Wales, examining borders. It was a very well crafted poem that was really well delivered.
David was followed by another very accomplished poet Antony Owen, Antony who hails from Coventry where he runs Nightblue Fruit, he also is an award winning poet whose take on war and society is not matched by any other living poet. Antony’s poems do not take prisoners as they spill the blood of tyranny from the page as he delivers realities so that they cannot be ignored. This makes him stand out as one of the greatest war poets of our time. Antony remembered lasting imagery of Bobby Sands, The Shankhill Lazarus and the fragility of Belfast during the troubles. His poem Pilau Rice explored the Riots of 2011 when three sons lost their lives protecting their property and the dignified response of their father as he called for calm. Antony as ever delivered a consummate performance.
Bert Flitcroft from Alrewas followed with an observation that he was reminded of when standing in front of the mirror shaving, which brought back a childhood memory of an uncle who wandered about Naked. This was followed by a sonnet to a Bacon Sandwich, which resulted in the only argument he and his wife had ever had. More breakfast foods adorned his final piece The Flying Club as he explored the lives of Pigeon Racers. Bert has his own true voice, a voice that can in the same poem amuse and raise to the fore poignant thoughts.
Penny Harper who delighted us with tales of Nepal at the last Poetry Alight, read two well crafted poems that delved into nature and with Song of the Earth dedicated to Professor Brian Cox and the infinite Monkey cage, followed by Hailstones which she described as a shout of hate that silences the birds.
Jane Stanton from Leicester who is a regular at Shindig gave us her wash day poems with a reminiscence of a Flatley Electric Clothes Drier Circa 1961 followed by Clothes Horse which brought back my own memories of making tents from an upturned clothes horse and army blankets where Jane held picnics and saw it as a grandly gentile room. Her final reminiscence Tasseography an Introduction, telling of the fading art of reading tea leaves, how she observed her Grandma’s skilful interpretations of the future through the dregs of a cup. Jane will be one of the poets going to Cork this year on the Coventry Cork Literature exchange and fine representative she will make.
Christine Colman opened up the world of a sedentary life with her poem Becoming a Seal which she followed with a wonderful poem that gave a voice to Icarus’ Father Daedalus as he observed his son ignore his instructions as he flew off with wax held feather wings only to travel too close to the sun and the wax melt causing Icarus to fall into the sea and drown as told in Greek mythology. The plight of a parent whose advice goes unheard.
Christine was followed by Margaret Torr in the run up to her guest poetry reading at THE FIZZ in Polesworth next Tuesday the 22nd of May. Margaret read her villanelle that came from an article on the funeral of butcher, where they played And Sheep may safely graze. This amused Margaret and so she was struck to write her wonderful piece that she delivers with all the skill of the natural storyteller that she is. I am always honoured when one of the Polesworth Poets Trail poets read their poem from the Trail and so was delighted when Margaret read the Pooley Pit Ponies. I look forward to her reading next week.
The second guest poet finished the first half and what an absolutely captivating performance it was too.
Sue Brown who leads Writers without Borders, delivered a special few moments not often seen but so absolutely wonderful to experience when they do. Her poetry is full of rhythm and purposefulness, she makes you stop what you are doing and listen. Her poem My love is Ire fills the room with her joy at being herself and being in love. From my thought came the word explores her relationships with people and with words and how they can interchange in a thoughtful resonant place. Sue finished with Wanting to Be with it rhythms of dance and Jazz and very distinctly the Blues, and absolutely wonderful piece. Sue is definitely someone to seek out on the Birmingham Poetry circuit.
The second half was started in fine style by the final guest poet Mstr Morrison, who gave us two poems, the first The Old man and his dog, was a tale about relationships and how ordinary unassuming people can lead extraordinary lives. His calm delivery soothed us into the world of the characters; bring a tear to eye of some who listened. His second poem Dance with me was personal piece that told of gathering music to enrich the souls of two lovers; these were two beautiful poems from a beautiful soul an absolutely brilliant performance. Mstr Morrison is another poet to seek out.
Next was Kate Walton who was struck by a newspaper article that suggested Melton Mowbray has the highest record for accidental deaths. A subject she mused upon with hints of pie making, well I say hints they were blatant references, she did qualify this by stating it was totally fictional. A very witty and well crafted poem that was well delivered.
We were then treated to the poetry of our hosts The Lichfield Poets.
Steph Knipe whose take on the world is always of interest as she sees things that others don’t and then delights us by pointing them out. Her poem Project Sunshine is a must for wine lovers and those who write about wine. Her second poem What Happened Next saw her talking to familiar strangers and ending with a prayer at ground zero. Both delivered with eloquence.
Following Steph came Jan Arnold who read of dying and dead umbrellas in the New York rain, capturing the streets of the Big Apple as no other rain is like that of New York. Here poem Caterpillar Smile was a poem to a lady on a train. Both were well observed pieces that took you to the moments that inspired them.
A reverent welcome was given to the leader of the Lichfield Poets, Janet Jenkins who gave us her creative thoughts on the relationship between humans and wildlife. Her first well crafted poem on Balletic Bullies as she mused on the disruptions of Starlings. She followed this with the disgruntled Frog who whilst trying to spawn was hit on the head by a mobile phone, Janet’s as it happened.
George Barbrook continued the animal theme with his Cat on a Wall, where he philosophised on Fat Cats looking down on us. His second poem really captured me, a love poem inspired by an Aunt who played out the summer, it told of time and the gentleness that we seemed to have lost.
Janet Smith followed with her poem for International Women’s Day, Flares which she pointed out she happened to be wearing, She followed with her poem thought provoking poem, Still Birth, which was selected as one of the twenty highly commended poems for Donald Singer: Health, Art and Science – Hippocrates Awards for Poetry. Her final piece was a tribute to Poet Adrienne Rich, who died earlier this year. It is always a pleasure to hear Janet read, she too will be travelling to Cork this summer as part of the Coventry Cork Literature exchange, Cork is certainly in for a rare treat.
Heather Fowler came next with a poem inspired by the Titanic, Not just any old sinking ship, told of an impresario rolling up the punters for a Titanic sideshow. She followed this with a poem to commemorate the end of the Football season with a memory of visiting Old Trafford in the days when BEST meant George Best. Both were well written and read.
Next came a newcomer to the poetry scene, Kay Westoby, who read from a Kindle, which is becoming more popular with readers in the last six months. Composer and Conductor, where she looks at how she can connect with a discordant world. It was a good first performance.
Finally Tom Wyre read from his collection Soliloquy, Ivory Towers a poem that proclaims Heaven can wait, he followed this with a new poem Cellophane Man who breathes the breath of destruction. A very fine reading and good end to a great night.
Poetry Alight was a terrific evening of poetry and long may it continue although it may have to lose its line of being an occasional event. The Lichfield Poets are to be congratulated for continuing to build this event. Congratulations to Gary Longden whose hosting skills made the evening flow easily and provided for the relaxed enjoyment of poetry.
The next Poetry Alight will be on Tuesday 10th July 2012 at the Spark Café, Tamworth St, Lichfield. This event is at the same time as The Lichfield Festival.