A healthy crowd turned out in the middle of the holiday season for this event, which is held bi-monthly, within the convivial surrounds of the Western Public House. Most Spoken Word evening have their own distinctive characteristics and Shindig is no exception. The two halves of the show are promoted by two different entities, Crystal Clear Creators, represented by Jonathan Taylor who tonight had the second half, and Nine Arches Press, represented by Matt Nunn and Jane Commane, who took the first half . A ground floor bar simply converts into a performance room. A combination of a microphone and a solid crowd ensures sympathetic surroundings for proceedings which attract an educated and appreciative, but not elitist, audience.
Crystal Clear Creators is a not-for-profit arts organisation devoted to developing, producing, publishing and promoting new writing. It works with new, up-and-coming and established writers. It records, produces and broadcasts spoken-word material; it publishes anthologies and pamphlets of new writing. Nine Arches press is an independent poetry press that aims to publish the best contemporary voices in handsome new poetry and short story pamphlets and collections.
First up was Matt Merritt who has become something of a fixture on the Midlands poetry circuit in recent months, unsurprisingly, his stagecraft is now finely honed. Matt’s debut collection, Troy Town, was published by Arrowhead in 2008, with a chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, by HappenStance coming out in 2005.
His poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia, Matt lives locally, and works as a journalist for Bird Watching magazine. His most recent collection, Hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, is available from Nine Arches Press, but he ranged freely across the whole pantheon of his work in his reading.
One of the pleasures of hearing a poet several times is in becoming accustomed to the breadth of their work . Zugenruhe was a fine piece on migration, with the underlying sense of anxiety and restlessness powerfully underscoring it. Coolidge intriguingly examined the eponymous US President whom the Reagan Administration had sought to favourably reinvent, whilst Summer Breeze was a wistful and pleasing homage to a friend who died young. On the evening it was 1984 which stood out, a powerful fusion of the social upheaval of the miner’s strike and the bowling menace of the West Indies cricket team of the time.
Closing the first half was Deborah Tyler- Bennett, a lady with Nottinghamshire roots, but a national reputation. Her chapbook collection of three portraits in poems, Mytton… Dyer… Sweet Billy Gibson… is available from Nine Arches Press, and dominated her reading. Quirky, historic , regional characters, they offered rich material from which to draw, Telling the Bees of Jimmy Dyer was particularly atmospheric.
Deborah works as a poet for many national galleries and museums, including workshops for The Science Museum, The National Gallery, The Collection, The Usher Gallery, and most recently being resident poet for Sussex Day at the Royal Pavilion Tearooms, Brighton. That sense of history and place pervaded her reading with Moonlit House from Revudeville (King’s England, 2011), a ghost poem, oozing class.
This was the first time that I had seen Deborah perform and she exceeded her reputation. Confident, assured and instantly engaging, her poetry was as sparkling as her purple patent heels, and her commitment to the poetic cause was evident when she took time out with me to enthuse about her editorship of Coffee House magazine. She has also been translated into Romanian, although why remains a mystery to be resolved at our next meeting!
First up after the break was Alex Plasatis , an exophonic writer undertaking a Creative Writing PhD at De Montfort University who has also co-edited the third volume of Hearing Voices, the Crystal Clear Creators House magazine. The increase in migration, particularly within the EU, will undoubtedly increase this phenomena within English literature. In Germany they have characterised this as “Auslander” and “Migrantenliteratur” ,and the phrases axial and postnational are sometimes used. But the term exophonic seeks to draw a distinction between the differing contexts of production of writing by non-native speakers and native speakers of hybrid identity calling attention to the politics of style in non-native speakers.
Now all this may seem a little high-brow but it is the context within which Greek National Alex performs. Trying to explain or categorise his performance is a challenge, but it was an absolute joy. Loosely a collection of bawdy erotic stories which would make Chaucer blush, it is introduced as being the story of a louche, lothario landlord who chances upon the opportunity to regale his young tenant with the tales of his sexual adventures. Neither conventional poem, nor straight story, it meanders, diverts, entertains and delights in equal measure – and brought the house down. If you have wondered about the libido of seventy nine year old grandmothers and the etiquette of wearing blue nighties in front of your girlfriend’s parents, then check out Alex next time he is in town!
Roy Marshall closed the evening for Crystal Clear Creators. Describing himself as a Leicestershire based poet, dad, a son, a brother and a nurse, Roy enjoyed success in a Guardian competition two years ago and has never looked back. His laid back style took in BBC Children’s programming of days gone by, Nirvana’s farewell UK performance, the smoking ban, and his children. Light, accessible with an unerring eye for humanity ,it was a thoughtful coda for the evening.
The undercard of open mic poets was uniformly high and almost entirely comprised serious subject matter. Mark Goodwin performed a nature poem detailing a country walk which was exquisite in its execution, Maria Taylor evoked the era of knife thrower’s assistants marvelously in a triumph of the virtues of preparation and skilful editing, amongst many fine performances. Shindig next meets on 24th October, free entry.