This outpost of poetic excellent continues to flourish under the assured guidance of Liz Lefroy and the support of a committed audience. Shrewsbury’s remote geographical location is no match for Liz’s poetic address book. Once again she dragooned a high calibre bill of headline poets to challenge, entertain and delight an appreciative crowd.
The format of poetry at the coffee house changes, sometimes it is guest poets only, as was the case tonight, other occasions are augmented by open mic sessions or are open mic only. The guests for this evening were local Jean Atkins, and from London, Rosie Shepperd and Katrina Naomi, all published poets.
Two things linked all performers, they were all women, and they all had great titles for their most recent published work, beyond that all were distinctly idiocyncratic.
Jean Atkin grew up in Cumbria, with Shetland ancestry, and lived for twelve years on a smallholding in Dumfries and Galloway. She is now settled in Shropshire, working as a poet, writer and educator. Her first collection is Not Lost Since Last Time (Oversteps Books, 2013).
Her pamphlets to date are The Treeless Region (Ravenglass Poetry Press 2010), Lost At Sea (Roncadora Press, 2011), which was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, The Dark Farms (Roncadora Press, 2012) and The Henkeeper’s Almanac (Biscuit Tin Press, 2013). She is a past winner of the Torbay Prize, the Ravenglass Poetry Prize, and the Ways With Words Prize at Dartington Hall.
Her work is of open space,and the pastoral, her quintessential defining line coming from What’s Human “Stretching out our fingertips to feel what is not there”. I have seen Jean perform on several occasions , this was her at her best. Relaxed, she took time with her phrasing and pauses, connecting with the audience, radiating the affection she felt for her subject matter to all in the room.And whether it was her love for her free range hens, or the grandness of the Spanish Pyrenees ” we drank until the mountains poured us out” her emotional oneness with the great outdoors swept you along with her easy verse.
Rosie Shepperd’s poems have been published on both sides of the Atlantic in The Seminary Ridge Review, Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland Review, Rialto, Magma, Iota, Smiths Knoll, Bow Wow Shop, The SHOp, Interpreter’s House and Agenda.
Rosie was a finalist in the inaugural Manchester Poetry Prize, in the 2010 Cinnamon Press award and the 2010 Templar Pamphlet Prize, and won second prize in the 2013 Cardiff International Poetry Competition. She won the Ted Walter’s/Liverpool University Prize in 2009. Her Salt Modern Voices pamphlet will be out in 2012,her pamphlet, That So-Easy Thing, was a winner in the 2011 Book & Pamphlet Competition, chosen by Carol Ann Duffy.
She didn’t reprise a single poem from her previous performance in Shrewsbury, but her source material of America, food and relationships endures.Nut allergies, Ginsberg, the Storm of 1957 and Chicago slang all sat in her forensic poetic sights.As a fellow past temporary resisdent of the USA, I delighted in her offbeat and sharp observations of American culture, eschewing the metropolitan gloss so easily regrurgitated by some writers.Rosie revels in picking out the specific, and what might, or didn’t, happen in her poems, allowing her a freedom in which she revels .There is also ambivalence regarding whether her poems are observed, or first person. One of her best poems, which she did not read on the night, tells of a trip to Paris to recover from a failed love affair. When talking about it to her, I assumed it was her, then realised that that was a bold assumption.The twinkle in her eye failed to offer a clue one way or the other!
Her first full collection, ‘The Girl with the Cactus Handshake’ (Templar Poetry), was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award and received an Arts Council England writer’s award.
Katrina’s performance was powerful, sensuous and dark. Her professed love of 1940’s London gangster movies manifests itself in a period hairstyle and a searing verite about the dark underbelly of London’s underworld. Never before have I heard a poem about cement being poured down a victims throat alongside the romantic skittishness of a teenage girl flirting with fairground boys.Yet both are laced with wry humour ” You have to be blonde or jet black , either way sister, there’s a lot of dyeing” (B Movie). Her tour de force is a poem about Pinochet’s love of gardening- read her collection to find out more.
A fabulous evening, the next event is at The Shrewsbury Coffeehouse,Castle Gates, Shrewsbury. 7pm – 9pm, an Open Mic: theme = ‘Nature’ – hosted by Liz Lefroy and Pip Bayley as part of Shrewsbury’s Darwin Festival, free entry.