Our first guest, Bethany W Pope, is a live wire who freely admits she is obsessed with form. She brought to the night her latest collection of double acrostic poems (initial letters of the lines reading as another poem, down each side of the poem), a heroic crown of sonnets, and some amazing stories of her very singular childhood, encompassing two exorcisms (a Fundamentalist ritual and a Catholic one: I she found the Catholic one the less painful, rather enjoyable); a period when, aged eight, she was put to work by her parents as an actor on commercials; and a time when she was contracted out by them to test drugs for a pharmaceutical company. All this happened in the USA where Bethany grew up. Listening to these accounts, told with Bethany’s energy and joyous story-telling expertise, we could only marvel and sympathise.
"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.
Each poem is formed with infinite care and love. Metaphors can be subtle and surprising: for example, an old man rises from his wheelchair:
“the aged monarch
become a butterfly, singing”.
The last poem in Jennifer’s collection is her poem about a fox, a more naturalistic, less mythic, more gentle image than the vixen in Bethany's Fox Cycle. The landscape here is four dimensional, extending in historical time as well as space.
Jennifer A McGowan’s reading from her collection The Weight of Coming Home (Indigo Dreams, 2015) introduced her listeners to her personal world of pleasure and pain, landscapes and family, in poems that I found became even more poignant and real when I read and reread them on the page.
Jennifer’s meditative and reflective writing leads through landscapes, external (Malvern, New England), internal and emotional, by way of rewritten myths (Ulysses, Penelope), memories of her parents, her grandparents and her own early life, and her meticulous observation of nature and the moment.
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Ivor Hartney (right) performed his excellent “Crystal Kings” and a song to cheer a friend, which it certainly would, for Ivor’s voice is most melodious and rich.
Cat Randle told of Stewart Taylor, a poet friend.
Timothy Adés, the poet and translator of (among other works) the surrealist poetry of Robert Desnos, read delightfully from the works of Desnos and Bertholt Brecht and filled the room with verbal butterflies and ravens.
Geoff Pimlott (below) read to us of Art and Social Change and neon ball-bearings illuminating chaos.
Next month’s Poetry at the Bar des Arts is on Tuesday 15th September and our guests are Zelda Chappel and Owen Elton. (Owen replaces Anna Savage who is not able to come, for health reasons.
Zelda is the editor at the poetry e-zine Elbow Room. Her work has been published in a number of publications both online and in print. In 2014, Zelda won the Battered Moons Poetry Competition. The Girl in the Dog-tooth Coat is her debut poetry collection from Bare Fiction (July 2015), about loss and discovery.
Owen is a songwriter, musician and maths teacher with a wicked sense of humour and a one-man version of "The Sound of Music." His show "The Wrong Number" was a big hit at the Guildford Fringe in July, and he has performed in many other venues and festivals in the UK
Rodney Wood (left) quoted songs by Bobby Gentry and Sam Carter.
Alex Twyman (above) proposed “Social Cleansing”, a series of books for children based on their questions about what the world is really like.
Michael Cutchey had his own Fox poem, this time about a dead one, with some grim humour, and a "Nameless Place"
It was great to have Martin Jones back, with a drily humorous poem, “This is a poet who...” We were glad to see how well he looked after the major heart surgery he underwent a few months ago.
Another nice surprise at the mic was Patrick Speckamp (below left), whom we hadn’t seen for a while. Patrick read a “team poem” about Things that Distress us now.
Marcus (below right) was there too, with an Ego Triptych, pleading for the Ego to have mercy, nuzzling lustrous hair and painting on grass (or was it glass?).
Ray Pool was very patient, reading almost last of all though he’d been almost first to arrive. He almost (but not quite) fooled us that he was really Roger Moore, then read a poem addressed to me which I had to admit dealt with familiar, typical behaviours of “Ladies Who Lunch”. He's below , looking very Moore-ish.
And last (because they were late) dear Andy B J Low and Andy V. One spoke eloquently of nothingness and the other went round and round and round and round .... on that motorbike of his! Their friends know which Andy delivered which. (A clue: Andy B J keeps his nothing under his hat)