From her fifth collection, ‘This One is for You’ (Waterways Books) I much enjoyed ‘Kernow Ceriad’, a love poem addressed, in effect, to Cornwall. I loved the incantatory power of the mantra ‘my love brings me…’ interlaced with phrases in the Cornish language and images of legendary Cornish heroes and ladies and the sights and sounds of that magical county. ‘Juliet’s Sister’ also caught my imagination – what would have become of Juliet and Romeo if their love had not been ‘star-cross’d’?
Agnes has travelled widely, in Europe, the USA, South America and Asia. She lived for some years in Turkey, and has attended poetry conferences and festivals in Iraq, Texas, Nicaragua and Syria, among other places. Her poems are haunted by the suffering populations of those countries, and by individuals whose lives are very different from the fortunate poets at the festivals where she reads.
Agnes often surprises with her original phrases. In ‘Wedding at Shakrisabz’:
Her stone white face locked against happiness,
His eyes a gleaming pomegranate wound
Invading the inscrutability of nomads …’
She has long been an advocate for Palestine. In ‘They’re Bombing the Port Again at Gaza’ (from At Damascus Gate on Good Friday published by Flipped Eye) she attends another wedding on a day when
‘Explosions blossom in the Khamseen darkness
Like bloodied chrysanthemums of sound
. . . .
The groom had a plastic smile hammered to his face
Genuine fear turning his features wooden.’
More recently, Agnes has taken her poetry to Babylon (Iraq) and Nicaragua. Her second set tonight was composed of poems from her forthcoming collection. It’s based on her visits there and to other countries where poverty and war create instability and humanity struggles to survive. Her warmth towards the fragile and beleaguered suffuses her poems. We felt its power tonight.
Michael Cutchey was first up to the open mic (which this month was a real, physical mic). His poem ‘The Smiling Man’ was memorably spine-chilling.
Ray Pool was in full Noel Coward mode, with an engaging poem about smoking which brought the great man into the room, wreathed in a blue haze! How he then linked spiders with train-spotting, I can’t quite recall, but a railway fan can always achieve remarkable links like this! He paid tribute to Alex Twyman, too, now graduated from Surrey Uni and working in Blackpool.
We were also very impressed by Chris, who looked in on us by chance and stayed to listen – and enthusiastically took up Dónall’s invitation to come up to the mic! He was inspired to compose a poem on the spot and made a pretty good start on one!
We were also pleased to see Josiah back at the mic delivering a poem.
Last, but never least, was Richard Hawtree, with whom Dónall had had such entertaining chats earlier, that he thought he’d already introduced him as a reader at the mic! Amid our apologies, Richard, who has been in County Cork this summer, read poems he had translated from the Irish, reflecting his mediaevalist scholarship. We were glad not to have missed them, for their liveliness and richness. And ‘Dónal’ got plenty of mentions in the literary annals of Ireland, even in the seventh century, it seems!
CELEBRATE NATIONAL POETRY DAY WITH US!
September 28th is National Poetry Day and we've been asked to deliver readings in Waterstones, Guildford High Street Branch. So if you're shopping in Guildford on that Thursday, do look in and see us - between 11 and 12 o'clock in the morning, Dónall, Karen, Trisha Broomfield, Rochelle Parker and Janice will be reading, and between 2pm and 3pm it'll be Ray Pool, Jeremy Loynes, Kyle McHale and Kitty Coles.
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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.