Rhymes – Milton Keynes Invasion

Station Pub, Kings Heath

BIRMINGHAM has had more than its fair share of national and international poetry talent in recent months. Lorna Meehan with Rhymes continued that trend by inviting the best of the poetry talent from Milton Keynes to perform, the self styled Milton Keynes Massive aka Bardcore.

Those familiar with the emergence of the Punk movement in the mid 70’s may recall the Bromley Contingent, suburban punks who made good in the big city, and there was a touch of that with Bardcore, as they arrived to make their mark.

First of the quartet was Donna Scott whose modest, self-effacing style belied some excellent poems. ”Poetry Crush” was fey, girly and fun, “What’s in a Name” mocked what had possessed her parents to call her Donna, and “50 Ways to Leave Your Labour” was a clever pastiche of the Paul Simon song inspired by a colleague who had walked out of her job.

Although two old favourites “Slob” and “Cake Shelf” delivered as she knew they would, it was “Geek” that stood out for me. A serious piece about child bullying which demonstrated her ability to write powerfully, and not just amusingly.

Fay Roberts was an unknown quantity for me – and an absolute delight. Her writing is rich, sophisticated, and multi layered, opening with a part sung chant, she zipped through hay fever, foot tapping percussion with “Moving as One”, and a clever exploration of “oh” in “Oh”!

The love poem “Song from the Sea” she had introduced hoping that it would resonate with the audience, and it did, a beautiful and evocative piece, but it was the closing “Dedication”, a poetic “I Am What I Am” declaration which stood out for me. Her performance was assured and serious, but warm and engaging too. I suspect we shall be hearing more of Fay.

Poetry Kapow (“kapow!”- you had to be there) is an event and website co-hosted by Fay and Danni Antagonist who opened the second half. Danni’s energetic and confident manner was the perfect pick-me –up after the break, her material very varied. “You’re Never Too Young For a Mid-Life Crisis” was classic performance stuff, and very well done. “Repent” asked where all those harbingers of doom carrying sandwich boards and placards proclaiming the end of the world had gone, whilst “Concrete” was a more reflective observational piece about her time in London. Yet for all her front and pizzazz “Bless This” stood out for me.

The emotional tale, told in plangent tones, of helping her father clear out family bric- a- brac subsequent to her mother’s death. In order for such a personal story to work it has to have an Everyman quality which reaches out to all – and it did.

To close the evening we had the first ever Milton Keynes Poet Laureate, and ever reliable Mark Niel. I have seen Mark perform on several occasions, his reputation as the UK’s leading performance poet is deserved. And although he may now be a Poet Laureate, he is not sitting on his laurels. He is moving beyond a straight poetry performance to deliver a one man show style performance incorporating music, storytelling and anecdote. The favourites such as “The Lozells Prayer”, “Poetry Voice” and “My Half of the Fridge” are still there, but we now have a far greater sense of cohesion and an enhanced platform for his talents. He is even inventing his own words – PILF! His act was a fitting climax to a very good show.

Rhymes returns in two months on Wed 20th July with performances by Jody Ann Bickley, Tony Stringfellow, Fifi Fanshawe and Janet Smith. 18-05-11.

Gary Longden

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