Last Tuesday evening we were reminded why we've called ourselves the 1000 Monkeys. We may not be writing the complete works of Shakespeare (there‘s not a thousand of us yet, and we don’t have an infinite amount of time, either) but we’re all making a good stab at writing excellent poems. On the 18th August we had two brilliant guest poets at the Bar des Arts to inspire us. We also had some surprise readers, old and new, to swell our numbers and add to the quality of the night.
Reading from her most recent collection, Undisturbed Circles (Belfast Lapwing 2014) Bethany also discussed the idea of psychopomps: beings that conduct dead souls away from earth. The fox in her Three-Legged Fox cycle “slips between the world of the living and the world of the dead”, a savage creature:
"she preferred the
tiny chicks, crunching their bones with a wild
The mythology attached to the Crow is the subject of the cycle called Three-Legged Crow, about another “trickster”. I particularly loved these lines:
“When the world ends, Crow
Will switch off the lights
And shut the last door.
Crow will see us all
Out into the night.”
The careful formal construction of the poems in Undisturbed Circles contrasts with the unbridled surreal language of their content. The quality of her poems doesn’t depend on readers’ detecting the complex net of repetitions and acrostics that Bethany has set on the page. Her dynamic and joyful reading style, and the back-stories that accompany her poems, make them come alive in her mouth, quite apart from their form.
As the narrator “lies pressed to the ground / to hear it grow and breathe”, and sleeps, a dog-fox finds, sniffs and wakes her. No mythological concept, this animal. He has chewed her sandal, kicked up his heels and gone by the time the narrator regains her sense of self and place. This poem is a wonderful melding of inner and external landscape.
We had fourteen readers for the open mic, and had to be firm about timing, regretfully. First up to the mic was our old friend Daniel Smith (above), who has just moved back to Surrey to take a teaching job. We had seen him in Hay-on-Wye last month. We were very excited to see him back at the Bar, as he'd promised. Dan performed his poem Metaforeplay with gusto, secure in the knowledge that he didn’t have to say “Sorry Mum” because this time she wasn’t in the room!
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Janice & Dónall Dempsey
We are poets, writers, spoken word performers, editors and organisers of spoken word events, based in the United Kingdom.