Jeremy Loynes has just had a collection published by Dempsey & Windle (our imprint). It’s called ‘Turning’ and there’s plenty to enjoy in it: landscape poems that evoke the hills and woods of Somerset, Devon and Surrey, with an undercurrent of spirituality running through them. His admiration for the poems of Edward Thomas, the poet of English rural landscape who died fighting in the trenches of WWI, shows to advantage in Jeremy’s lyrical tone and imagery. Beneath the beauty and calm, there’s an elegiac thread. Thomas wrote “Addlestrop”, the English landscape poem that many of us read in school.
The other influence upon Jeremy’s writing is the American Robert Frost who was a friend to Thomas and who encouraged him to write poems after reading Thomas’s prose pieces. Thomas lived in Steep, near Petersfield, about 50 minutes’ drive from Guildford, amid rolling hills that he walked every day. Jeremy’s reading glowed with an enthusiasm and respect for the countryside that Thomas surely would have understood and shared.
An impressive literary CV, and Dino is also a very good performer and all-round friendly guy. We enjoyed his “Greek Baptism”, his foray back to gay Earl’s Court as it was in the 1980’s, and of course, “Doctor Mirabilis and the Brass Wall around England”, in which he conflates Brexit, Francis Bacon’s alchemical experiments and the poetic equivalent of Spitting Images!
We were very pleased to welcome Charlie to the open mic for the first time. A student in Durham, he was back home in Guildford for the Easter vacation. His poems, topical and universal too, dealt with social media’s surveillance of private lives. In a second poem he listed deaths he’s seen, asking, “Will the experience of these deaths make up for my abusing my life now?” “If you stay on the wheel long enough / you’ll be spun into someone new…”
Richard Hawtree had a concrete poem in the shape of a tongue and, almost on the same theme, “The Nght I spoke Irish in Surrey” an enchanting poem that he’s given us permission to include in our forthcoming anthology, “What the Elephant Said to the Peacock”. (Dino and Ray will also have poems in the book.)
David Russomano brought an “Abandoned Piano” to the mic, and several memorable lines: “We wait like cemetery plots”; “Rain like this is music for snails”. His found poem from a old sheet of newsprint he’d accidentally discovered resounded with chance juxtapositions of facts and ads.
Michael Cutchey was gothically dramatic as ever and we enjoyed “The Duck” again: that poem never fails to make me laugh: he’s perfected its delivery more each time I hear it.
It was a surprise to see Jacquie Verbeek, who has been back from Australia for a year, unknown to us. We were able to hear some of her autobiographical poems, as the list, usually full by 7.30 when we start, still had spaces when she came in.
Karen Izod gave us an “Unknown Family Group”, a “Picture Book” in which she had adapted the cadences of Early Learning reading books to create a rhythmic poem about her forebears, and the monologue of a homeless traveller unable to sleeping Bournemouth’s public benches through the council’s inhumane decision to create divisions of the seats, specifically to prevent anyone from lying down on them.
Andy B J Low urged “Forward: the future has overtaken us!” and Bobby-Jo Dearnley had another of her excellent poems. Bobby-Jo won’t allow photos or videos, and I was enjoying her poem too much to think of making notes, so writing this after a gap of two weeks, I regretfully can’t give you more details. But it was good.
Alex de Suys and Geoff were well matched on soapboxes, Alex also proclaimed the wrongs of the world in no uncertain terms.
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All this political poetry drove Dónall to drink: five times in the evening he performed his party piece: a pint of Guinness downed in less than 10 seconds. I recorded the second of these feats of daring. It's called "Point Taken" (you have to say that in an Irish voice). Since he doesn’t normally drink at all, it was especially dare-devil stuff. (Later I poured him, still very cheerful, into the car.)