“’I love you’ escaping from the hard box of my throat”;
“Anonymous as waves; is this what we will become?”
This poem is a lesson in how to write pain, bleak hopelessness, physical suffering and degradation, love and cautious optimism, without melodrama, judging or sentimentality.
Wordsworth defined poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquillity”. Substitute “balance’ for the word “tranquillity”: this is great poetry. “Zones of Avoidance” occupies the first half of Maggie’s book of that name, published by Cinnamon Press. We bought it. The other poems in it have the same raw honesty, the same intense imagery as “Zones”. Buy it, read it and be moved. More about Maggie on her website.
Originally from Lancashire, now living in Glastonbury, Rachael paid homage to the culture of the Earth Goddess in poems about birds and animals. In “Toadsong” she meditates on her Jewish heritage.
When she shape-shifts into “Crow” she glories in the ruthless strength of the “corbie eye”, almost we expected her to take flight: “Allus fly straight/the crow way”; “air spin / me / swim me / ffflap soarrr”
Both “Toadsong” and “Crow” were published last year in her latest collection, “Singing at the Bone Tree” (Indigo Dreams) and are republished in our Keystone Anthology (to be launched on June 8th). Her recent poem about aging as a cyclical affair is cynical and humorous, and it’s one of my favourites. Rachael's website is here.
Greg Freeman (right), wryly accompanied by his anorak, gave us Basingstoke Canal, Woking’s answer to the Wey Navigation, with all its history and natural beauty.
Richard Alleyne (right) whom we hadn’t seen for a while, had memories of injustice in Trinidad and some advice on living the good life.
Gareth Toms, the first of the Portsmouth poets from Maggie’s group Tongues & Grooves, admitted to being a New Man (doing the washing up) and presented a Caveman Utopia which sounded a lot of fun. On the other hand, his dystopia of workers cloned to do three people’s jobs on a single worker’s wage was all too convincing. Finally, though he had not yet heard Rachael’s “Crow”, Gareth had his own take on the birds – and it wasn’t very friendly!
Richard Williams (below), who like Gareth has made at least six previous forays from Portsmouth to the Bar Des Arts, had chilling words about a car crash, appreciative lines on Seventies music, and a beautiful landscape poem with more birds, in which the reeds were “... waiting”.
Karen Izod had a Mildly Erotic poem about a rhinoceros that she hadn’t submitted to a competition (the poem, that is), a Medium Erotic Poem that she had submitted, and she finished by explaining to R D Laing about her Bad Bits and her Good Bits with a brilliant punch-line that I won’t reveal in case she reads it again.
Ray Pool (left), no longer a Bar Des Arts Virgin, was back with poems about an old girlfriend, and a Present Game.
Eddie Chauncy held everyone spellbound with three elegant poems, one of them, “All The Rain is Making Love” more than Mildly Erotic, I thought. His poem about “learning beauty” which he introduced as a poem about learning and flight, sparkled with imagery held in tension.
Geoffrey Pimlott (left), who we were pleased to see had managed to make it in spite of family commitments, read about mothers and “Hard Stuff”.
Alwyn Marriage (above) mourned her old camper van, noted some strange road signs, including the controversial "Cats Eyes Removed", and told a tale of the Prison Conjurer that left us with another mystery.
Next Spoken Word at the Bar Des Arts is on Tuesday 16th June with Elaine Stabler, Hugh Greasley and Claire Booker featuring.
Mark Cassidy (below), also up from Portsmouth, spoke for a mutating virus that sounded as predatory as the Crow, and followed up with more birds, which by now had emerged as a theme. Finally, he gave us a poem about meta-ironing. To do that, you watch someone else (Omar Sharif) watching someone else (Geraldine, Omar’s wife) ironing. Sounds more fun than washing up, I thought.