For this, our last Keystone Poetry Open Mic night before our Christmas break, we had a record number of readers ‘from the floor’, and Raymond, the quietest Angry Poet in Britain and probably in Europe, until 2018, anyway. We were also remembering Leonard Cohen, who died almost exactly a month ago, a sad loss to the world of the arts.
Raymond has featured at The 1000 Monkeys events twice before (once when we were still Pop Up Poetry at the Bar des Arts) so we knew we could expect some surprising declarations and a lot of laughs.. The audience was enjoying itself so much, in fact, that Raymond found it quite difficult to shock or awe us – but he certainly entertained us.
Raymond certainly lived up to his nom de plume tonight, sparkling in his own wry and understated way. His slanted world, where floral tributes to knife victims in Richmond turn out to be a florist’s shop, and he’s stalked by security men in a Poundshop (inspiring Ray’s fury – if he were shoplifting he’d choose Harrod’s!) His train journey to Guildford inspires his thoughts on “free movement among sovereign states – so many contradictions in that one phrase I can’t even begin to…” It was 30 minutes of rich political incorrectness and we loved it. Raymond won’t let us show you our video of his set, so if you want to know more, do buy the book!
Dónall, a huge admirer of Leonard Cohen, had two of Cohen’s works to deliver: Take this Waltz (adapted by him from a poem by Federico Garcìa Lorca) and As the Mist Leaves no Scars, originally a poem by Leonard Cohen, which he adapted as a song. Leonard Cohen was truly an artist in many media and we miss him.
It was great to see Geoff and Lorri Pimlott back for a Christmas break from their winter hideaway in Chieng Mai. Both looked tanned and fit and had poems to match. Geoff’s semi-found poems had an erotic edge this time: do women have to be naked to get into the Met. in New York? he asked.
Dan Smith had some tough words to share about the recent US presidential election and about Band Aid’s admittedly rather vacuous question Do they know it’s Christmas? In fact, Dan ‘fessed up that, like many of us, he’s not a fan of Christmas hype at all.
Lorri found Hope at the bottom of the ballot box that contained the seed of Apocalypse Now, but her poem about Suvarnabhumi Airport’s effect upon the villages around Bangkok reminded us that other countries suffer just like us, when the extra runway is built in an inhabited area. Then she cheered us up a bit with her Filthy Poem.
Alex Twyman began by asking a yellow bird why we dream, and getting few answers. In Something Something Unexamined Life, he observed that poets are 'betrayed by microscopes and microphones’ into assessing life instead of living it.
Andy B J Low had some straight talking to do about Disclosure, in his poem in the wake of all the historic paedophilia cases again in the news. Some great metaphors in his next poem about the kind of poems he wants to hear. The “journey through my mind / one slip and you may find yourself in my bowel or my shoe” and the erotic “jam without the bun” were especially memorable. Andy in a Poetry Contest is a force to be reckoned with, he admitted. Here is a naughty little poem of his that Dónall has a soft spot for.
Sam Rae again took her courage in both anxious hands and delivered an excellent reading, in her series about the occupants of (and views from) various benches. This evening the bench was on a river bank at Wisley. Sam also read a poem by Betty Head, Botswana’s favourite poet, and honoured Alex Twyman with a poem about him, which did not spare his blushes.
Rochelle Parker admitted to being rather nosy and going Round the Back to see what lies behind the façade of street life. But we forgave her because she was funny, too.
Brendan had two love poems – having diverted himself from his intention to go to the gym, he was without a prompt but delivered his poems by heart, with aplomb. I wished I’d had the video camera running.
Kyle McHale, looking about ten years younger than he did when he was a school-teacher, remembered in Feeding the Animals how his grandfather, who had been starved in a prison camp in WWII, would overfeed his family in compensation. The last lines, …”fed to be happy kids / but lived to be crying men” struck a chord with many of us, especially leading up to Christmas and the ritual feasting. Kyle also had three poems about Autumn – I loved “The fingers of Autumn curled up like old paper” and the birds “singing behind the colours”.
Jeremy Loynes discussed the duality of sanity and madness in the human psyche, and apologized for jumping to hasty conclusions on first impressions, in Sorry. He had some observations about the differences between women and their men, too.
Ray Pool was in Scots mode this evening, with a poem in dialect (don’t ask me to tell you what it meant!) and also a most irreverent story about Christmas Day in the Nursing Home – which sounded a lot of fun! Another good set that escaped my cam's lens.
Martin Jones reminded us that Guildford is in a constant state of reconstruction and imaginatively took us to the god’s eye view of the town from the huge orange arm of the Crane hovering overhead. Awaiting his Shadow referred to the mysterious legend of the doppelganger. In Kingfisher he took us to Frensham Ponds, the Wey and other Surrey riversides.
Andy Fiver delivered an excellent reading of Aah, a poem by Jay James, the songwriter, and followed it up with one about Arles, in the south of France, where Van Gogh and Gauguin went to paint their post-impressionist pictures.
Eddie Chauncy’s been spending time in Chantry Woods, where he can “write out loud”. His seasonal poems were full of Sap and Ice, crisp leaves and bright autumn air. The other place where Eddie writes, he tells us, is in motorway cafés where he finds A Democracy of Dreams – ‘No-one is completely comfortable ‘/ but someone made this place / where we can be less uncomfortable.’ And, says Eddie, there’s no right time but this.
Next Keystone Postry Open Mic will be on Monday February 6th, and we're looking forward to Karen Izod's feature set then.