Everyone agreed that this was one of the most entertaining nights we’ve enjoyed at the Keep this year – and that’s saying something! A F Harrold, always an excellent reader and improviser, sparkled (metaphorically, of course) as he read from his new book, “Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space” and his poems glinted mischievously among our intimate but capacious new seating arrangements and lighting.
Scott Elder, our visiting poet from France, read from his new collection, “Part of the Dark”. He soon had us immersed in his surreal images of the ‘Ferryman’ and the refugees whom modern ferrymen transport into darkness and danger, and the haunted landscapes of his inner life. Scott began writing seriously a few years ago, having had a varied career as a mime artist, a Buddhist monk and a husband and father.
"Part of the Dark" is published by Dempsey & Windle (2017) and is available from dempseyandwindle.co.uk
and Amazon UK
A F’s Greta Zargo is a new brand of child superhero whose exploits range from saving the planet to the more vital task of discovering the identity of the cake-thief in Upper Lowerbridge. Embellished with plenty of lively illustrations by Joe Todd-Stanton, and many lively footnotes (or side-notes) by A F, it’s a great read for children of any age up to 102. Possibly beyond.
"Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space" was published by Bloomsbury in September 2017.
Scott's son, eleven-year-old Eryan, was staying with us in our Monkey Den for the weekend, and came to join in at the Keep. We were all charmed when Eryan came to the microphone to recite “The Wolf and the Lamb” in La Fontaine’s original French.
Dónall, hosting, started the evening with poems from his new collection, "Gerry Sweeney's Mammy" also published by Dempsey & Windle this year. (ISBN 978-1-907435-47-8)
Donna ‘The Pink Poet’ was another new reader, with “Sailors’ Wives” and a touching poem about her efforts to get treatment for her husband’s brain damage after his behaviour became violent.
Ruqqayya was our third newcomer. She asked, “What is it Like to be You” in poems that were thoughtful and philosophical. We hope to see her back to the mic in the future.
We were pleased to see Gareth Toms up from Southsea again, with his ‘Short Shorts’ – not summer trousers, but his brand of short incisive poems that cut straight to the point of a topic and leave us smiling. We’ll look forward to his delivering “Imperfect Girl”, Work Colleague”, “Us Young Punks” “The Landlady’s Lament’ “The Big Express” and “Somewhere for Someone” another time, when we can record them again.
Kyle McHale issued an Irony alert before reading his poem about gun possession in the US, his homeland, but we were in no doubt what he meant to say. “Old Bread", about jettisoning emotionall baggage, and “Wine by the St Lawrence” completed his set.
Richard Hawtree appealed in Irish traditional mode, “O Poem” to explain ”what I want a poem to do” (and what it can’t do, too) and delivered a new poem, “Barcalles”. Elephants also featured in Richard’s set - selling encyclopaedias?
Eddie Chauncy’s poem “Little Universe”, longer than his usual sonnet-length poems, gave good advice:
“… you have rights
wear them like clothes
and sometimes put them down
… last year’s splendour
is this year’s decay
… let it be so.”
Kitty Coles read a request from Dónall: “the Children of Lir” from her pamphlet “Seal Wife” and new poems. It was her birthday – her birthday poem was characteristically original:
“… a tearing at the temples
shedding old skin,
emerging from old wrappings…”
Ray Pool had a new character: Winston Churchill took to the microphone to issue an invitation to his birthplace. I particularly enjoyed the rhyme:
Come with your denim
and pocket guides…”
Ray missed his neighbour’s cats when they moved: “their suspicion and disdain” and noted that “on a thermal of news” the finches moved in once they’d gone.
His poem in honour of Michael Cutchey gave us a new name for Mike: “Gentle Dynamite”. Michael himself demonstrated that grim but quiet gothicity to the full, arrayed in full black livery.
Jeremy Loynes had a word to say about “Stuff” that “lurks in corners” that we recognised as a grim fact of life! And he welcome winter as a “Teacher” to Summer’s fools. “South Hams Hymn" celebrated a corner of Cornwall.
We were very pleased to see Josiah (Joss) Anderson back to read. His poems have become assured and full of meaning in recent months and we enjoyed his reading very much.
Geoffrey and Lorri Pimlott were making their last appearance at a mic before flying off to their Chieng Mai winter home. Geoff was relaxed and enjoying the evening with both ears clearly working well. We enjoyed another outing of his dialect poem, and Lorri’s Inbite of Inwit. We’ll miss them both until they wing their way back to Guildford in the Spring.