Shindig, Western PH, Leicester

The formidable Shindig flexed its bi-monthly poetic muscles for its September offering hosted by the effusive Jane Commane and the urbane Jonathan Taylor. As is the custom, four diverse guest poets had been hand-picked, and an open mic of amongst the sharpest performers around miraculously assembled, along with Ezra Pound, of whom more later. Jane could barely contain her excitement as the evening wore on. Jonathan was in fine form, not least in performing a poem about a Dolls House chez Taylor that hugely entertained, and is likely to have both Quentin Tarantino, and Social Services knocking on his door.

The two guest poets for the first half had travelled from Gloucestershire, the first of whom was Daniel Sluman. I first saw Dan at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival alongside the considerable talents of Luke Kennard and Phil Brown, he comfortably held his own. I have recently been critical of some publishing houses whose output is narcissistic ,inward looking and self –aggrandizing. Equally I have been critical of poets who see being published as an end in itself, and fail to support the publisher in promoting the work. Neither criticism would be true of Nine Arches Press, or Dan ,whose talent deserves to be heard, and whose presence was testimony to his determination to reach an audience.

His performance, mainly from Absence has a Weight of its Own, was assured and compelling, as the material itself is. Some is born out of, and borne by, personal triumph over adversity, but is never maudlin. He speaks to the reader of themselves, not of himself. His writing is concise and intense; “If you cleave me in two you will smell your perfume on my bones”. The absence theme a haunting constant in a powerful set.

Angela France hosts Buzzwords, a highly successful poetry evening in Cheltenham and looked delighted to be able to stand in front of an audience and do her own thing rather than introduce others, that delight instantly communicated itself to the audience. With Mallemaroking (the carousing of seamen on board Greenland whaling ships) she was playful, with her pastiche of Sunday Sport headlines, which went on to be published by the same paper, she was self effacing, and with her Lightship Prize winning poem The Visit her poetic craft was plain for all to see.

Sarah Jackson is a senior lecturer in English and Creative Writing; Programme Leader, MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. Her debut poetry collection Pelt has won 10th place on the Guardian first book award long list 2012. Her writing is a beguiling mix of the sensual, sinister and macabre, if she was a character in a horror film , she would certainly be the one to watch out for. Something rather unpleasant happened whilst a child was using the Red Telephone, and she revelled in the tale of The Ten o’clock Horses trading on a story told to frighten young children to bed and sleep in her village. She declared a fascination for submarines with their stealth, and desire to be unseen. That fascination with the unseen is an apt metaphor for her poetry.

Rory Waterman was born in Belfast , but grew up in rural Lincolnshire. With Nick Everett, he is the General Editor of New Walk Magazine, a new international journal for poetry and the arts. His studies, writing and publishing encompass an extensive range of themes, but tonight he was largely in reflective, retrospective family mode, most notably and effectively with Stranger when a small child asks, “Who are you?” However, it was the opening, West Summerdale Avenue, centred around the serial killer John Gacy, which showed him at his best :

“the sprinkler slashes its crest across your lawn and back again, and slashes its crest across and back again”

The open mic slots were, as always, a delight. Bob Richardson’s trademark is to carry a bag with him on stage. With each successive appearance, the bag he brings becomes larger. Before long he will require a fleet of pantechnicons leaving the tour managers of the likes of Lady Gaga and the Rolling Stones in despair when Bob is on the road. Many of us carry collections of our favourite poets with us, Bob carries their portraits too, hence his need for the large bag, and a lightning tour through Imagist luminaries Hilda Doolittle, Richard Adlington and Ezra Pound, the latter of whom then seemed to inspire several poets thereafter. Bob rightly drew our attention to the debt that much modern poetry owes to the Imagist movement.

The regulars set their usual high standard. Kathy Bell’s completed sequence of Balance Sheets for Medieval Spinsters was satisfying, and accomplished. Amongst the new and less regular performers Becky Bird’s poem of a woman who exchanges one worn pair of sandals for identical new ones whilst sat at a cafe was wry, sharp and well observed, Kerry Featherstone’s graveyard poem lived up to his brash chutzpah. Yet the spirit of edge and enquiry which is synonymous with Shindig was best kindled by Roy Marshall before he performed:

“Between Harry’s bits and Kate’s tits can anyone tell me whether Syria is fixed yet?”

Shindig next meets on Monday 19th September at the great Western Public house, free in, 7.30pm.

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