Caught between Burns Night and St Valentine’s Day, we advertised our event on 1st February as UnBurns Night. We thought love poems and Rabbie Burns poems would go together well. Dónall wore his kilt (Irish as it happens, but who knew? – so sue me, said Dónall ... ) and we inserted the famous lover and lyricist’s epigrams and best-known poems wherever we could squeeze them in. It was great to see Greg Freeman of WriteOutLoud.net, who took a lot of excellent photos, which with his permission I’m using in this review.
Kyle writes and delivers poems with an unaffected use of form and imagery that connects with his audience at all levels. In “Toothbrush” a child’s toothbrush becomes a potent symbol: without effort or pretension he expresses the dualism of innocent childhood and adult identity, good and evil, in a phrase like “throwing off the dreamlike cloak of childhood”. Evil like a broken glass bathroom shelf is everywhere and has to be faced. After all, he says, looking in the bathroom mirror, “You reflect yourself everywhere you go.” And we’re nodding, yes, yes, we’re with him.
Thinking about places and, in particular, cities, Kyle writes of the peace to be found “Between Buildings”, in the gaps between main streets, where the minutiae of real life can be glimpsed by the traveller wandering down alleys. “Being lost in Venice is anything you wish for ... in between, there’s always room for a small glow.”
Fishing, a theme to which he returns often, is an activity that brings him closer to nature and the animal world as well as to the important members of his family: “the fishing line’s a connection to everything that lives”. In “The Pier” the very planks of the landing stage are alive with feeling, protecting the old and stimulating the young who tread on them.
And Kyle had love poems, written for Laura, his girlfriend. Laura becomes one with the landscape where he can live, in “You at Night,” and in “Waiting Star”, she is the being he waits for when they first meet and he hopes to know her. “I only pray for other things” he says: Laura is a given, the rest is needed only as it relates to her.
“Where my father stepped” is another kind of love poem. The pride that Kyle expresses in his father’s achievements and the strong model of manhood he has provided for his son is contained passionately in the structure of the poem. And in “The Old Professor” there’s love of a wise teacher, of the poets to whom he introduced Kyle, and of poetry as an art.
We were left with a sense that we had been allowed into Kyle’s world, had roamed in the landscapes, mountains and forests where he grew up, had wandered backstreets in Venice, had met his family, had watched the animals and fished the lakes of his home with him.
You'll have noticed that our lighting was variable! Blame Greg Freeman who turned the room green (with envy) as well as our weird wash-light. His poem about his Caribbean cruise was new, and absorbing.
Alex de Suys was in a bit of a mood, as well, what with work, the younger generation, the middle-aged generation, the older generation, capitalism, pizzas (no, pizzas were OK) poets, and not having had time to get a set ready. It wasn’t getting him down, though, and his ringing tones echoed cheerfully around the room. (Maybe because Dónall had accidentally turned up the echo knob on our new PA system!)
Eddie Chauncy’s love poem was about addiction (“I’m not allowed you”) and had a happy ending as clearly he could resist anything except temptation. Next came: What to do with a psychologically challenged car? ODD isn’t restricted to naughty little boys, it seems. And Eddie’s newest poem is inspired by portraits of the Queen on old and new coins, with an "Eddie twist" of balanced opposites at the end.
I (Janice) read Robbie Burns’ fond farewell to Nancy, whom he loved and left with many tears (or so he said). Then I explained politics to sheep, goats and geep. And Hilbre Watts (bottom right) did a sterling job (that’s not meant to be a pun on Stirling) reading Robbie Burns interludes. “To a mouse” and several of Burns’ epigrams fitted in very nicely throughout the evening. Her “Thanks for a Famous Victory” would have stirred the Highland blood, for sure.
Here are my photos of the night
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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.