Poetry readings abound in the Midlands at the moment. Men and women are seen entering a rich variety of bars, pubs, meeting rooms and libraries clutching notepads and books. Tonight they converged on Bloxwich, an ideal venue with sound system , stage and flexible seating for local author David Calcutt’s Sounds & Sweet Airs. With mini- candles flickering on the tables, Charlie Jordan commented that the room had the feel of a Parisian Cafe, left bank, naturally.
David Calcutt opened proceedings drawing upon Chaucers’ Wife of Bath for What Women Desire, a fine epic tale. Its erudite tone and traditional content fused effortlessly with the evening’s themes of celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday and literary traditions, and World Book Day. Ian Henry picked up the patriotic theme with an homage to St George before Tom Wyre read an engaging trilogy of the surreal with trademark rhymes. The Lichfield Poets were well represented on the evening, leader Janet Jenkins read from a piece written for the Lichfield Mysteries, about the Garden of Eden, and closed with a beautiful nature poem about a murmuration of starlings.
First guest poet, Maria Calame, closed the first half with her customary energy, lyricism, performance and grace. She effortlessly slips between the received pronunciation of Skin Deep and the Caribbean patois of Dead in the Water, combining pathos, redemption, defiance and hope in one tremendous package. Opening the second half, second guest poet, and Decadent Diva, Charlie Jordan breezed through familiar territory, Walkmans on local bus routes, the erotic allure of men shaving, and her signature Words all pleased. She tantalised us by performing only a fragment of Buddhism and Ben & Jerrys, but delighted us with her new M, the saucy tale of the head of Mi5.
From the floor Ian Ward now combines an accomplished repertoire with some introductory banter, declaring that his reading was themed around “recent poems” which raised a knowing chortle from a poet heavy audience, his Lichfield Mysteries poem about the martyrdom of a heretic in Lichfield market square is particularly strong. Basking in the news of her long listing in the recent Flarestack Publishing pamphlet competition, Janet Smith delivered a dark and intense sequence with a smile and confidence, the new Hooded Children stood out for me.
Drawing the evening to a close was past Birmingham Poet Laureate Roy Mac Farlane who is guaranteed to close any poetry event on a high note. His poem about Richard Pryor deals with racism, Jack and Jill is a cry on behalf of the dispossessed and disenfranchised and the pernicious effect of spending cuts is not spared his rage. But Roy’s material extends beyond the political and social. Nearly There neatly name-checks his young daughter, whilst an extended piece about the erotic properties of tights made you wonder what would happen if Roy shaved and Charlie Jordan put her tights on in the same room!
All in all a fine evening drawing together the local poetry community and part of an occasional series led by David Calcutt, check the Bookmark Library Theatre website in Bloxwich for future events.
Gary Longden 24/4/12