This isn’t a review of the event. Bernadette O’Dwyer did a fine job of that for “Behind the Arras” (http://www.behindthearras.com/pubreviews.html). Instead it is a personal reflection on it , with no obligation to be comprehensive, complete, or objective.
“Fizz 8” represented the culmination of the preparation of Mal Dewhirst, the collective work of some 23 Poets over four weeks , and the subsequent selection process, to produce 16 poems for the Polesworth Poetry trail. All but two of the successful poets were able to attend, and so we assembled as if in a reunion. But although we all knew each other, the poems themselves were relatively unknown, read only in the “Winners List”.
The room itself is dominated by the fireplace in front of which the original Polesworth Poets, Donne, Drayton and Johnson once performed. I wonder if they ever had an audience as great as that which assembled on this night? Every seat was taken. The presence of those who had given their time to educate the poets on the traditions, human history, natural history and geography of Pooley Country Park created an air of expectation, occasion, and responsibility.
What struck me was how different the poems sounded read out loud. Their authors breathing nuance and life into every phrase, word, and pause. I have previously observed that this collection forges a new genre, “Trail Poetry”, which is neither to be necessarily read silently, nor spoken out loud . Instead it will be a mixture of both, as they are stumbled upon, read, and then probably read out loud to others. Colin Hench, before performing “Dreams of Alvecote” properly made the point that his poem was not a stand- alone piece. It was written for a specific audience in a specific place. It was a point well made.
We had two scientists in our group and their different, but distinctive work fascinated me. Peter Grey, with “Brick Making Remembered” evoked memories of school day geography lessons, the process and raw materials exactly recounted. Janet Smith brings precision . “A Cry” has language which is forensically selected, but evocatively and sparsely deployed. Each word is made to work to the maximum, any word that attempts too much is ruthlessly culled.
The surprise of the evening was supplied by a poet who couldn’t make it. Barry Hunt is primarily a songwriter and lyricist. His poem, “Pooley Miner’s Tale” ,he realised on completion, was in the form of a folk lyric. Peter Grey, bravely, and successfully rose to the occasion by stepping in for him and singing it unaccompanied to a traditional Shropshire tune. The other absentee poet was Jacqui Rowe. Her meticulously crafted “Black Swan Possibility” soared when guided by the sympathetic tones of Margaret Torr.
When performed, the qualities of another poem caught my ear in a way that was not apparent on the page. Dea Costelloe spent some time indulging in “tea & gossip” with some ex-miners wives, resulting in her poem,” Women’s Memories of Mining Menfolk”. And as she read it out loud, so you could hear the voices of the women talking, so perfectly had she captured the language of that dialogue.
As for my own contribution, “Pooley Hall”, I reflected that it was the shortest poem, yet attempted to cover half a millennium . Is that wise in seventy words? I realised, however, that I wanted to say nothing more – and nothing less.
Malcolm closed the reading and two thoughts crossed my mind. Firstly, as the New Polesworth Poets we are in august company. Secondly, the consistency of the quality of the work produced, had also been matched by variety of treatment and form. It remains now only for the physical reproductions to be completed, and installed. The grand opening will be a satisfying coda to a rewarding project.