It’s a question of trust. When I attend Shindig I expect headline poets who are going to interest me, entertain me and challenge me. As usual, I was not disappointed . The bar in which the performance was taking place was packed, the other bar all but deserted, which says much for the pulling power of a good spoken word evening. Shindig runs bi-monthly, which has advantages. It is sufficiently frequent to be a fixture on its audience’s calendar, without being so frequent that maintaining the quality of headline performers becomes a problem. The star billing was shared between the poets who closed the first and second halves.
Closing the first half was Maria Taylor, introduced by Jane Comane of Nine Arches Press, the publishers of Maria’s new collection Melanchrini. I have heard her read several times over the past couple of years, most recently within the week when she performed in Lichfield. I am starting to tire of poets on the circuit whose dedication to promoting their published work is half-hearted and lackadaisical. It is as if they think that simply reading some decent poems is enough. Those poets might learn much from Maria. Her set was well constructed. The context of the collection and individual poems explained, and she performed each poem without allowing the performance to overshadow the poem. Melanchrini, she explained, is a Greek term of affection for a small dark haired female child. In turn that affection is apparent for the subject matter of her writing, be it family furniture heirlooms, or women whose husbands have disappeared in unexplained circumstances. This was her third promotional reading after Ledbury in just over a week, I am sure that her hard work and professionalism will ensure the success of a fine collection.
Kim Moore closed the evening, introduced by Jonathan Taylor of Crystal Clear Creators, and was a delight. I knew nothing about her before. Her first pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in The Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition and was published in May of this year, from which she read extensively. She works in Cumbria as a peripatetic brass teacher. In 2011 she won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and an Eric Gregory Award. Previously I had only associated Barrow in Furness with submarines and a struggling football team, that perception has now broadened. Afterwards, she told me that Barrow has a burgeoning, vibrant spoken word scene. It may well be that the geographical isolation of the town is an asset. Long train journeys to pretty much anywhere from Barrow are a fact of life, and I particularly enjoyed The Train. Its sharp social observation was replicated in Tuesdays at Wetherspoons , the grim reality of which is not confined to Barrow. Her sense of humour shone through in Hartley Street Spiritualist Church, a visit to which was made more enjoyable as a result of it coinciding with when “mediums were in training”. A natural, easy performer, with readily accessible, but meticulously constructed poetry, she brought the evening to an end on a high.
Alan Baker had appeared before Kim as a guest poet, and is the founder, and co-editor of Leafe press. Although a Geordie by birth, he now lives in Nottingham and his most recent collection is entitled Variations on Painting a Room. Neat, and ordered, his order versus disorder piece was clever, his poem on Nottingham’s Chilwell ammunition factory , the country’s most productive shell filling factory during the First World War, his most satisfying. I would have liked to have heard more. Robin Vaughan –Williams wraps up the list of featured poets. A distinguished and active writer ,he has lived in Sheffield, Nottingham and Iceland and has worked on collaborative poetry and music compositions and soundscapes. He read from his collection The Manager developing themes as diverse as the wind and blue curtains. His set was awash with interesting ideas, but for me, the selections lacked cohesion as an entity.
Shindig is as renowned for its floor readers as it is for its guests. Amongst the regulars, Jayne Stanton transported me back to 1970’s era drinking pubs, smoke filled and with the jukebox hammering out my favourite tune. Previously Deborah Tyler Bennet had impressed with an homage to Ian Dury, this time she again hit the mark with Hangar Lane , with echoes of John Cooper Clarke’s Beasley St chiming in the background. Bob Richardson touched me with his poem about a victim of the Kings Cross fire disaster who remained unidentified for sixteen years. It was an object lesson in taking a subject which lends itself to melodramatic cliché, and finding a fresh angle. Its humanity was its strength. And yes, Bob brought his bag……………….
Amongst the newcomers Gary Carr impressed with Without You, Tom Wyre with Cellophane Man. There were also some tantalising vignettes. Graham Norman and Maria Rooner performed a delightful two hander, reciting the same poem in English and German, Tracy Twell told of Leningrad seed banks. For Sally Jack, a double Haiku sufficed.
Second half host Jonathan Taylor was in ebullient mood and seems to be developing a musical theme. At the last Shindig he performed Mozart’s Clarinet Sextet ( a literal impossibility, but best not to dwell), at Lichfield’s Poetry Alight he performed a piece on Stockhausen, this time Our Price ‘95 was as scathing as it was funny. Shindig does it all again on Monday 17th September, 7.30pm start, free in, sign up for floor spots on the night.