In a pre-show chat Crystal Clear Creator co-director Maria Taylor Shindig described Shindig to me as, “no ordinary open mic”, an aside which pretty much defines this event, and should be its strap-line. Once again Crystal Clear Creators and Nine Arches Press had assembled a strong and eclectic roster of featured poets and floor readers before another full room for this bi-monthly event, presented by Jane Commane and Jonathan Taylor.
Robert Richardson closed the evening. As well as appearing in CCC’s Hearing Voices, he has been published in Agenda poetry magazine and also co-edited ‘Homage to Imagism’ (AMS Press, New York). As a visual artist, he was recently included in ‘Artists’ Postcards: A Compendium’ (Reaktion Books, London). Robert has a very distinctive style, arriving on stage with an assortment of bags. In the same way that a seasoned, reliable ,mechanic always has something in their toolkit to correct any mechanical problem you may face, so Bob has a poem tucked away for pretty much any occasion. His poems are typically short which enables him to also exercise his skills as a raconteur. His eye for detail dovetails seamlessly with his devotion to Imagism, his brevity and wit shines with his epigrams.
Providing an international dimension to the evening was Alistair Noon . Born in 1970 in Aylesbury, he has subsequently spent time in Russia and China, before moving to Berlin where he has lived since the early nineties and works as a translator. His poetry and translations from German and Russian have appeared in nine chapbooks from small presses. Earth Records is his first full-length collection. He appears to have assimilated a number of Teutonic strengths by osmosis. His writing is clear, efficient and memorable, doing enough to do the job well ,without unnecessary over elaboration. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Facets of a Soviet Battle Tank which opens with:
“Defending Socialism in thirteen states,
it redirected the traffic in Prague;
then, in rows at the Afghan border,
improvised its own car park.
A press-out cardboard piece
for a weeklong board game.”
A late addition to the line-up of guest poets was Ira Lightman, replacing Julie Boden who is still recuperating from an illness. We all wish Julie a speedy recovery.
Currently resident in Newcastle upon Tyne, Lightman is a conceptual poet with a particular interest in public art. He regularly appears on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb, and has three published collections. Phone in the Roll, (Knives Forks and Spoons Press), uses poems spoken into an imperfect dictation transcriber, which produces misheard transcriptions of the intended text. Mustard Tart as Lemon , (Red Squirrel Press),draws together work written over 15 years and includes Concrete poetry . Duetcetera, (Shearsman Books), offers twin column poetry which can be read individually, or together, and is written as two voices. He has also been featured on New York based website Ubuweb (www.ubu.com/ubu). To be published on Ubuweb is a considerable feather in his cap, The Sunday Times named it as one of the top ten “benchmark websites” in the world. There are just five UK poets published there, and Lightman is one of them.
I am a fan. His poetry is not always easy, and when performed out loud is sometimes difficult to follow without the text, but it is always interesting ,and pushes at the boundaries of poetic form. With each poem the audience has no idea what is coming next, best exemplified by Judy Garland which included the most preposterous and imaginative reimagining of Somewhere Over the Rainbow you are ever likely to hear.
C. J. Allen was new to me. His prize-winning poetry (in the Arvon, Yorkshire, Lebdury, Ilkley, Ware, Nottingham & English Association competitions, amongst others) has been appearing in magazines and anthologies in the UK, USA, Ireland & elsewhere for years. His most recent collections are: A Strange Arrangement: New and Selected Poems (Leafe Press, 2007), and Lemonade (a red ceilings press e-book, 2010). Violets – winner of the Templar Press Short Collection Competition – was published in November 2011. He currently edits the reviews pages of the literary magazine Staple. But tonight he was promoting his new collection At the Oblivion Tea Rooms. Perhaps it was our shared experience of having been apprehended by the river police for transgressing obscure regulations on the Norfolk Broads, but I took an instant liking to Allen’s laconic style, delivery, and work. Snail Explains endured for me, with its wonderful image of the said Gastropod’s forward progress being akin to that of a Russian novel.
The floor readers offered an embarrassment of riches, I recall by impact, Caroline Cook’s Weekly Workout which was my favourite poem of the night by some way. It’s wry pithy observations on the dark side of poetry workshops were quite wonderful, and deserved a barrelful of applause (although I did have to look up the meaning of vatic!).Jayne Stanton’s homily to tea was a delight, as was Lindsay Waller Wilkinson’s trip to Seaham.
Shindig next meets on 16th July, 7.30pm, free admission, sign up for floor spots on the night.
Gary Longden 23/5/12