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Dónall began proceedings as usual, with “Prayer”, “Snowball”, ‘To Woof or not to Woof” - Hamlet in destructive mode - and “Skin and Blister”, a moving (but not maudlin) poem about June, his lost sister (hence the rhyming slang). He also expressed our condolences to Lorri and Geoff Pimlott. They had flown home for the funeral of Margaret, Lorri’s mother, and we dedicated the evening to Margaret’s memory.
John Wheeler, whose performances have won many slams and whose first collection of poems is to be published by Dempsey & Windle (our publishing imprint) in 2018, took the audience by storm with his “Shakespearean” soliloquies on topics that we could all relate to – half of the audience in particular, when he performed the “Trouser Soliloquy”!
John’s more serious poems also struck a chord with the audience. “A Certain Man” expresses the dilemma of a thinking person in a busy, business-orientated world where holding “black-and-white” opinions, not allowing for varying shades of approach, is how “a certain man” deals with ethical problems. His poem about rescuing a fallen swift and his meditation upon the stars and humans’ place beneath them were lyrical and thought provoking.
Marc Brightside, our second guest, gave us a flavour of his debut collection, “Keep it in the Family”. Marc confesses to a cynical view of life and art, which stems in part from difficult relationships within his family, particularly concerning his father, of whom he says, “He taught me to lie.” Nonetheless, Marc’s poems are honest and direct, meeting ambiguity head-on and suffusing the underlying bitterness with wry humour.
Lorri, on this short visit back to the chilly UK, wrote on the contrast between Chiang Mai and Guildford – focusing on the weather, but implying more. The cute and lively images in “Exercising my Demons” made us all smile.
Richard Hawtree had brought his Christmas Sonnet, “Wrappings” – I especially enjoyed his description of “mummers’ hasty truths”.
Ray Pool brought a poem on another Christmas topic – “Jigsaw” – and “Queen of the Kitchen”, dedicated to Mary Berry. A huge fan of John Wheeler, Ray had a poem dedicated to John, too.
Greg Freeman had three railway poems, each linked to a classic film. “Brief Encounter” was the easiest for me. and Julie Christie featured in the one about “Billy Liar”. In “Clacton” Greg looked back to pre-Beeching railways.
Kitty Coles had three intriguing new poems inspired by nature. “Message” had the world and sky “joined by water / rods of it” and in “Last Act” we see “scuttling litter” “when the ravens left”.
Marcus Belassie had produced an amazing conjoining of maths and words in his "found" poem made from Dónall’s October poetic output! As a maths-blind person I was totally in awe of the process!
Karen Izod’s Christmas poem was “The Arrival”, about St Anne, the legendary mother of the Virgin Mary.
Jeremy Loynes gave us a soft, gentle nature poem, then maintained he wasn’t sure of us, in that dreamy lilt that convinced me for one that I was as untrustworthy as anyone in the room!
Andy B J Low stood up for the “Me Too” movement in “Blame the Victim” and had words of wisdom on the joys of consensual sex.
Eddie Chauncy was in an elegiac mode with “It was Us" and pointed out that “Poetry is / attention dimming the light/ so that we can look each other in the eye”.
Michael Cutchey gave us his emphatic dramatic word picture of “The Towers of Aldebaran” and a dream called “Postcards from Insanity” – the writing on the asylum wall reading “Wish you were her”!
Ruqqayah addressed a “Gypsy” and lamented their lack of freedom.
Bob Milton gave us his “Christmas Gift” and two other poems illustrated with his paintings.
Andy V Frost made a welcome return to perform some old favourites.
Bobby Jo performed a poem about mental health issues that avoided cliché and was very moving – “We’re all Mad Here”. Her second poem was an angry one - her account of how she met a man who had raped her friend when he was in the street collecting money for a charity - the hypocrisy of his situation and the injustice to her friend.
We’ll be gathering in the Castle Lounge at the Keep again for more madness on Monday 8th January 2018, avoiding Monday January 1st which is New Year’s Day. Gareth Toms and Kitty Coles will be our featured poets. For that evening we’re going to mobilise the Tip Monkey on behalf of the Oxfam Bookshop who will lend us one of their Collecting Buckets.
to all Monkeys and Poets, everywhere.