Smart Poets, St Martins Church, Bullring, Birmingham

The  hall of this famous, landmark Church is now a fine venue in its own right with excellent public address and lighting  as well as a bar, cafe, formal and informal seating. Compere  Penny Hewlett, leader of Smart Poets did her customarily skilful job in showcasing the groups talents whilst at the same time bringing in talent from across the City.

Poets are not renowned for their timekeeping, or memory. Penny dealt with absentee and late performers with effortless ease to put on another fine evening. Ben MacNair was the pick of the Smart Poets with a neat quartet of poems, two of which were Jazz themed, “Blue & Green” and “Thank You Miles”.

 The former  a wry expose of jazz pretentiousness, the latter a straightforward paean to the great Miles Davis. Laurie Spencer looked back on “London Pride”, Graham Stubbs lambasted the “Big Society” whilst Penny herself  read an understated but poignant piece about our economic hard times entitled “Lament”.

INCARNATION

Naomi Haworth played an accomplished trio of her songs on keyboard before accompanying Katriona  Heatherington on the epic, classically inspired, “Psyche”. Samantha Hunt offered an ambitious personally inspired long piece with “Hotel Across the Street” which continues to mature and evolve in each succeeding incarnation.

After the break Lorna Meehan was able to get her teeth into her own set for a change instead of running her own event, “Rhymes”. The cavernous space and wildly disparate audience presented a challenge for all performers, Lorna wisely decided to do a bit of everything generically from her repertoire.”Stephen Fry for President” is a great homage to the qualities of one of Englands great contemporary artistic figures, “Eyes Closed” a more personal piece, and yes she still yearns to share sonic screwing with Mat Smith in “Dr,Dr” ( Not to be confused with the great Thompson Twins hit). Her best moments came with the closing extended “All Stories Are About Love”. Clever, fey, erudite and passionate. Yet it is such a good poem that it feels like a stand-alone work. One where you want to enter into her world on a solo journey, unencumbered by what has gone before. 

The finale was a quick fire open mic session. These always are the organisers version of Russian  Roulette, with each performer stepping up to the podium often as unsure as the audience as to whether they are going to fire a poetic silver bullet, or a blank. Amongst many, Pauline Morgan borrowed from  ancient mythology for “Don’t Look Back”, Charles Wilkinson read a very entertaining “Not By Me”, and David McLelland  freestyled with a Bardic “Greetings”.Cream always rises to the top. Past Birmingham Poet Laureate Chris Morgan exemplified this with his readings to close the evening, not least with “Charmed”. 25-03-11

Gary Longden

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