Bilston Voices, Metro Cafe, Church St, Bilston

Bilston Voices has had a weather interrupted start to the year with two of the four events snowed off. Thus a full house turned up in expectation, and relief , the show is back on the road. The pulling power of Bilston Voices remains undiminished, an unashamedly local evening which has a reach far beyond, and a waiting list of invited readers which exceeds a year. Emma Purshouse hosts, her snow boots stowed for another year (hopefully).

The local aspect was underscored by the helpful promotion of a “conversation club” which meets at Bilston Craft Gallery, Bantock House Museum, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery monthly ( email art.gallery@wolverhampton.gov.uk http://www.wolverhamptonart.org.uk). I suspect that these events will themselves inspire and promote poetry.

The first half, in a female reader heavy evening, comprised contributions from Anne Hastings, Jacquie Evans and Maggie Goren. Anne introduced herself as “an artist who wrote” and offered a wistful, nostalgic, set. She spoke of her love for arts and crafts, her poems were as lovingly constructed as a woven basket. Jackie read a mix of prose and poems which were laced with some much appreciated humour, on an evening dominated by more serious work, not least in her “Flight to Lossiemouth”.

Closing the first half was Maggie, who had travelled from the Cotswolds to perform. When she gave Radio Four as an inspiration for her poetry, the omens were inauspicious, but her set unfolded to offer some finely crafted pieces culminating in a remembrance of a family member who died two decades ago, “Remembering Michael” ,in a climbing accident – “One tall tree fell too soon”. Highly personal poems are high risk, but this worked and resonated. She read from her book, which impressed, but failed to give us its name, or the price, which was a missed opportunity.

The headliners, and second half readers, were David Calcutt and Nadia Kinglsley reading from their new collection and collaboration “Road Kill”, which they did identify and promote. The title is somewhat macabre, the pieces individually , however, are elegiac and celebratory. A carcass of a fallen animal can be magnificent, and can be pathetic, both scenes are captured in this collection.

David Calcutt

David Calcutt

They did not read every poem, incentivising the listener both to return to future performances, and read the collection in full, providing a sense of spontaneity. Nonetheless the work lost none of its fluency and cohesiveness in so doing. David has always excelled in writing about birds, “Two Crows” stood out as a succinct , startling vignette. “Road Kill” itself is a shocking piece of magpie brutality, seemingly glorifying in Clockwork Orange style malevolent violence ,“ a heavy shouldered thug, putting the boot in, and keeping on doing it”. By contrast his excerpt from “Aten”, inspired by Egyptian mythology – “But for this quivering of wings/ At the blades tip/Poised at the zenith, before the long slide down/ the nirvana of a drop”, soars as magnificently as the bird swoops.

Nadia’s “Red Deer Stag” combined grandiloquent description worthy of her subject, stripped of sentimentality, but awash with emotion. For her, the “antlers hewn from ancient forests” transcend mere mortality, offering animal myth as dignified as any hunter’s noble quest. In sharp juxtaposition was her modern take on the magpie in “Pica Pica” ,in which she asks us to:

Nadia Kingsley

Nadia Kingsley

“watch it choose select pieces/ while judging car’s speed/then confidently hop aside”

Both writers pieces were stylistically, as well as thematically, complimentary. Sometimes they split up poems to offer contrasting voices in a performance, other times they simply read their own work. It was always rewarding and easy on the ear ,and a delight to hear a collaboration so fully realised, it was akin to musicians touring their album live. “Road Kill” is being performed throughout the summer at various venues culminating in a performance at Lichfield’s “Poetry Alight” on October the 2nd , 7,30pm at the Spark Cafe Bar, and is available from http://www.fairacrepress.co.uk

Bilston Voices returns to the Metro Cafe on Thursday 23rd May.

Gary Longden

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