Old Cottage Tavern, Burton upon Trent
This was the third event at this new venue, which I suspect means that it is no longer new, and should no longer be described as such.
Organiser Gary Carr was rewarded with the biggest turn-out yet, resulting in a good atmosphere, plenty of readers, and few spare seats. It is encouraging to see that Friday nights can command poetry audiences, and this monthly routine extends across the summer with no break.
Crucially, Spoken Worlds is attracting a core of high quality performers to set a good standard whilst still welcoming those who want to read for the first time.
A first time performer at Spoken Worlds, but a seasoned veteran of the Birmingham/Black Country circuit was Bob Hale. An English Teacher by profession, Bob was making his first and last ( for a year) appearance as he is soon to teach summer school at Harrow and then English in China, so any victory speeches in Black Country English from the Chinese Olympic Team in London next year are down to Bob.
Wisely his first two poems, “On Being Joined in the Pub by Two Female Colleagues whose limited range of Conversational Gambits had Previously Been Remarked Upon” (“I forgot you’re not a girl Bob”) and “Dave” were set in a pub, unsurprisingly they matched the audience’s mood perfectly. “Other Childhoods” reminded of those in other countries less fortunate than ourselves whilst “Waiting for a Holiday to Begin” was a short, sharp reminder of the perils of embarking upon any holiday.
But he left his most impressive poem till last, ”Chaos Theory”, from the eponymous second collection of his work, “The smallest of lies betrays the greatest of truths. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ”, a poem of love and loss, taut, anguished and well executed. A fine set, and well worth the three slots, he will be missed, but equally welcomed back in a year’s time with, no doubt a rickshaw full of new poetry.
Mal Dewhirst was another who read in three instalments, a device which allows a reader to offer a substantial offering of their work without taxing the audience with one uninterrupted performance. ”Ibiza” picked up a Balearics theme which was reprised elsewhere whilst, “Donna, Two am” a story of a Mrs Robinson infatuation, had a painful veritas about it. After pieces about body piercing and time Mal then went into an extended piece about a recent visit to Memphis, in which Elvis and the Blues loomed large.
The Elvis phenomena is an interesting one. His late 50’s career undoubtedly was a defining element in the birth of modern rock n roll. Yet the draft and then a movie career took him out of the musical frontline thereafter even though he continued to enjoy hit records and commercial success for much of the 60’s. Shrewdly, Mal concentrated on the Blues, a back street bar and an aging Bluesman who had never quite made it which unsurprisingly provided the basis for a very good poem.
Colin “The “ Hench is a poet whom I always enjoy, and he did not disappoint. One of the poets to be immortalised on the Polesworth Poetry Trail he revisited his time at Pooley Hall, first with a sombre reflection on the dangers of the Tip alluding to Aberfan, and then with “Alvechurch Mound v Pooley Mound, an allegorical tale of the resistance within the community to the metamorphosis of a once working pit into a leisure park.
John Donne is a man with local connections who managed the apogee of poetic ambition twice by producing two phrases subsequently assimilated into the English language in his poem “No Man Is An Island”, with the title phrase (borrowed by both The Boomtown Rats and Paul Simon) and the closing line “And therefore never send to know for whom, the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. ”. Boldly, Colin tackled the island theme himself – and very successfully he did so too.
But for me his “Student House” poem was his standout offering of the night with a particularly memorable line – when he described the house fabric as being ”shabby as a cowards excuse”
A host of other talent provided sterling support, including Margaret Torr and Ian Ward with some fantasy writing Terri and Ray Jolland with light comedy and Rob Stevens with poetry and music. Spoken Worlds next meets Friday July 22nd, 7. 30pm. 17-06-11