A heavyweight bill ,with four out of the five readers published poets, brought out another strong attendance, such that the start had to be delayed, a measure both of the success of the event, and the pulling power of poetry in Bilston. Hosted by Emma Purshouse , the sales table groaned under the weight of the various publications credited to the evening’s authors.
First up was Dave Finchett with a well prepared set. He opened with a trio of love poetry, which is always high risk, albeit underpinned by the safety net of the sonnet form, but he pulled it off. I particularly enjoyed his description of street lights as “fiery pinheads of the night sky” in Light Pollution. But it was Bullshit a knockabout satire on the foibles of middle –management which drew the most applause including his memorable description of a “thicket of middle managers”.
Jacqui Rowe, co-editor of Flarestack Poets, informed me that the next poet, Joel Lane, was the first poet ever to be invited to submit a collection for publication to Flarestack, which has resulted in Instinct, a collection of erotic poetry. Frustratingly, he only read a handful of poems from the collection. Instrumental, about musician Charlie Parker, was excellent. Instead he bravely elected to read a short story about a mystery cancer cluster on a local estate. Joel is sharing a joint launch of Instinct with David Hart at the Birmingham MAC on 22nd April.
Closing the first half Jacqui Rowe herself stepped up to perform, visibly relishing the freedom of not having to carry the responsibility of hosting Poetry Bites, her own bi-monthly poetry evening in Birmingham. Most of her reading was from Paint, inspired by her recent residency at Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton, the ancestral home of the Mander family who made their fortune producing paint in the 19th century. Curiously Theodore Mander married Flora Paint, so a title for the pamphlet was not hard to come by! The poetry itself is moving and beautiful, with the pamphlet available from her website, but my favourite poem of her reading came from her most recent residency at the Warwickshire Museum, Ways of Looking at an Otter, a response to an exhibit of an otter skull some 170 years old.
In the battle of the Poetry Houses, Jane Seabourne, stepped up representing Offa’s Press ,to read largely from her collection Bright Morning. Jane is an easy, comfortable performer whose warm style and performance manner seamlessly merge with her readings in winning combination. She is just as at home with the lightness of Ten Signs of Spring, as she is with the domesticity of How to make a Chocolate Sponge whilst later tackling the subject of a survivor of childhood abuse with tenderness and power.
I encounter David Calcutt ,who has been published by Oxford University Press regularly, yet never tire of his imaginative writing which is always delivered with boyish enthusiasm. Nature, mystery, magic and forests are recurrent themes, yet his writing is always precise and realistic, as was evidenced in his opening poem Cattle, the fantasy always grounded. His descriptions always remind me of holiday brochure photos, based in fact, yet garnished to please. He remains the only person whom I know to write a worthwhile sequence on curlews.
Bilston Voices returns on Thursday 26th April with Jack Edwards, Iris Rhodes, Liz Lefroy, Bobby Parker and Win Saha, 7.30pm start.
Gary Longden 23/3/12