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Brian Baker treated us to his sometimes darkly humorous and always surreal story poems. Influenced by film noir, he read poems about the ghost that insists on repeating the moment when it jumped out of a window at every moment in the narrator’s daily life, the death of Death, and ‘The S Word’ – in this case, the Soul. The Stunt Man overreaches himself; being wished a “pleasant evening” can be dangerous if the instruction is not obeyed; the “only thing that lasts” is found at the bottom of the antithesis to Pandora’s Box – it’s Hate. Brian insouciantly describes a dangerous, absurd, blackly funny world in which you need a spray to repel the horses that keep invading the bathroom, and where you can trick the devil into selling his soul, by forging his signature.
In the open mic, Michael Cutchey was in sci-fi mode with ‘Invasion of the Saucers of Arachne.’
Richard Hawtree had been to a garden free of gardeners and Edmund Spencer’s castle in Co Cork, at dawn.
Said’s poems told us, “There are parts of me that as uninhabited” and “All the future’s ash”.
In her second set, Jacquie explored the other elements, Air and Fire with a sequence about the sky and a poem about burning stubble. Leylines at Royston caves and the Downlands completed the quartet of elements, with Earth. Her poem “Skin” was a celebration of body, its message, accepting your body with is ageing and its imperfections, striking a chord with everyone.
Suzanne, a welcome young newcomer to the Keep, read three perfectly poised poems with grace and assurance. “Small Print” – the idea that one might return to the place one was sent on Earth from, but was foiled by the small print that prevents it – was original and humorous and we loved it. “Woman” and “I wear a blue skirt” – a uniform for virgins – were also thought-provoking poems.
Ray Pool lipped into a cunning disguise so it was Nöel Coward who stepped up to read “Stage Door Johnny”.
Heather Moulson turned the gimlet eye of her memory upon adolescent love, with “The Walk Home (“… we snog between smokes…”!) and “The moment I find someone to love – in the same room…” And we all knew exactly where she was coming from.
Karen Izod had seen “A little sploshy wagtail” and written a poem after John Clare. Her poem “Knifegrinder” showed her understanding of the life of an itinerant journeyman or traveller who needs strength to “cope with the rejection …”
Andy B J Low had a haiku and an excellent idea to “Open the fortress walls within your mind” and we were pleased to see Andy V Frost in good form with “Party”.
Gareth Toms had a cautionary tale for the Festival Season that’s upon us: “Dawn at the Festival” whose rhymes were definitely “ris-ible”.
And a “romantic” poem which perhaps inspired Geoffrey Pimlott, the next poet to the floor, to give us three love poems – “just as depressing as my usual stuff!” – but they were not – and Neon Love was, perhaps more about lust “flashing on and off”.
Richard Alleyne had a protest poem about redundancies, admiration for a lady poet and good advice against taking physical revenge for wrongs ‘ “Words are powerful”.
We were very glad to see Eddie Chauncy with his thoughtful and thought-provoking poems. Trees as embodiments of past and future and the value of purity as opposed to plurality were his topics. “Everything is in some sense everything else”; “Purity is ultimately death” was his powerful bottom line.