“It’s in the reach of my arms, the span of my hips, the stride of my step, the curl of my lips.I’m a woman, phenomenally .Phenomenal woman ,that’s me.” So quoted host Jan Watts, current Birmingham Poet Laureate, from acclaimed American feminist poet Angelou Mayou to open an evening of poetry performed by women, but to a mixed audience, with a strong male contingent. Promoted in conjunction with Birmingham Libraries, Sue Wilkinson and Librarian of the year ,Nikki Bi, were on hand to help with the organisation.
Ensemble performances are growing in popularity . In Birmingham, the Decadent Divas, Charlie Jordan, Laura Yates, Lorna Meehan and Maggie Doyle have been pioneers of the style. The new show, which ran to around 20 minutes, was entitled Love and Marriage and comprised almost entirely new material with just a few fond echoes of the previous show. Maggie Doyle mused that “life has a habit of re-arranging life”, Charlie that we move from “falling in love to standing in love” in two memorable lines. Finished only a few hours before, an already strong script will tighten still further with familiarity. I was also mildly shocked to learn that the Grace Jones song Pull up to my Bumper referred to her backside, and not the back of her car……….
Naomi Paul is a similarly experienced performer , and it showed with The Truth About the Goddess of Rhythm and The Grey Rabbit, the latter a wonderfully atmospheric tale of her journey as a hippy bussing across America, evoking the spirit of The Grateful Dead and Paul Simon whilst retaining her Englishness. Kate Faulkner trod the safe ground of body image, Jude Ashworth cast a spell with Astara. It was a particular pleasure to see Sam Hunt’s disciplined presentation of Dolls House, about child abuse, and a delight to hear novelist and poet Christine Coleman for the first time, especially her tour de force, Becoming a Seal. From Smart Poets Penny Hewlett read a very strong trilogy, two of which were sonnets on a converstional theme. Compelling and innovative, Penny’s writing is always worth watching out for.
Cathy Gee explored Ladies in Linen prior to a particularly strong closing trio. Jacqui Rowe, who had mentored several of the performers , was as polished as ever, reading from Paint and reminding all of the importance of Jeannie Senior. Over the past couple of years Janet Smith has emerged as an outstanding poetic voice, her understated polemic in Flares debuted with the ink still drying on the page, was excellent. Egg and Caligo I cannot wait to read on the page, their fine first impression quite evidently merely an alluring outer layer for the potency of what lies beneath .
Closing the evening was the only straight performance poetry of the night, from Scrubber Jack, a Coventry poet who tells of life as a scrubber, or a cleaner to be more precise. Base , crude and earthy, it was also honest, touching and great fun and went down very well. The venue is a fitting place to perform poetry, and the good sized audience went home rewarded and entertained by a strong bill.
On the 3rd May, Jan Watts is running another women performer event themed on loss, gain at the Library Theatre starting at 7.30pm, between the 16th and 21st she is running a poetry workshop at Erdington Library. Rachel green from Community Vibe also trailed a collaborative project with Jan Watts called Poetry City an initiative to broaden awareness and the appeal of poetry in the city.