Poetry at the Shrewsbury Coffee House, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury

Liz Lefroy


This was my first return visit after a promising inaugural event in May, which has subsequently run monthly, gaining traction and momentum such that it has now moved from the basement to the larger ground floor room. Liz Lefroy hosts the evening with an elegant light touch and an impressive roster of hand-picked performers. A warm balmy evening, a full house, welcoming staff and a great selection of coffees and cold beers promised much, and so it proved.

Larkin is quoted as saying ;“Trust nothing which does not spring from feeling, and make art out of life, not art out of art”, it is a good maxim, and one which is sometimes lost by poets who write and forget why they are doing what they are doing. A feature of this evening was both how many readers had stayed true to that precept, and the variety and brio with which their readings were presented.

Ted Eames pulled no punches with a powerful trio of poems to launch proceedings. Gender differences, sharply observed, eased us in, a wry look at the Judeo/ Christian/Muslim world view was much more lively than the subject matter suggests, whilst The Lords Care, a bilious condemnation of care for the elderly, potently delivered as a duo with Liz Lefroy ,drew loud applause for the piece itself, and its message.

Vuyelwa Carlin’s reprised her May performance of Namirembe Cathedral , (the red brick cathedral in Kampala), which she dedicated to David Cato the murdered Ugandan gay rights activist, before closing with The Dream, an unsettling and potent evocation of a protagonist who does not realise she is dead.

Another unafraid to use poetry as a platform for politics was local starlet Mathew Broomfield, educated at Adams Grammar School and a Poetry Society Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award Winner. His youth theatre experience shone through with his calm assured delivery. Saltwater Sweet, an homage to the murdered South African Black Activist Steve Biko succeeded in reinventing a familiar well worn theme spurred by the quote from a local police commander that Biko’s death “left me cold”.

Over the past few years I have seen Paul Francis perform on several occasions. He never disappoints. The consummate professional, he read a witty Roy Hodgson’s Big Mistake, then promptly sat down, the embodiment of the principle that less can be more. Kate Innes picked up on the sporting zeitgeist with Silence is Golden a well crafted Olympian sonnet.

I invariably enjoy hearing foreign language poetry, curiously French has been under-represented in my previous encounters, so it was a particular pleasure to hear Nathalie Hildegarde Liege read Le Plus Plaisant de Beaute and Une Ophelia Brule. Although even for an educated audience, the language was beyond what most of us utilise at the boulangerie’s of Calais and the vineyards of La Loire, the beauty and rhythms of her poems were self-evident. Steve Thayne picked up on the ethereal nature of Natalie’s poems with titles like, This Space, I am Blossoming and Small Whispers. He cut a bohemian dash in a flared sleeve blouse as favoured by Jon Anderson from Yes, and his themes could easily have been culled from Tales From Topographic Oceans. In the true spirit of prog rock, I was not entirely sure what it all meant, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

Janet Smith’s musical poetic milieu is somewhat different, favouring the brevity of a Pistols’ single, the lyricism of Patti Smith ,and the complexity of Talking Heads. The other worldly Hooded Children rooted in an uncertain time and place, compels and intrigues, A Cry is a stripped down gem.

Self-styled Emergency Poet Deborah Alma gave a trademark performance. As Mary Poppins always found that a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down, so the treatment of Deborah ensures that a poetry evening will be brightened and rejuvenated by her verse. Fey, bright and clever , she romped through her deconstruction of the rural idyll and the saucy antics of a cattle lorry lover, with pathos, wit and a twinkle in her eye.

It was a delight to see this event embeded into the Borders poetry calendar, a tribute to the efforts of Liz Lefroy and the local poetic talent . Next meeting on Thursday 13th September with David Calcutt amongst the readers.

Gary Longden 3/8/12

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2 Responses to Poetry at the Shrewsbury Coffee House, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury

  1. kittythefish says:

    I believe there’s also a reading by the poet Gary Longden at the next meeting! ? Thanks Gary! Deb

  2. Pingback: Poetry and reading in French « news

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