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It was great to see Gareth Toms performing a full set, as well as other poets from way down in south Hampshire up for the open mic: Richard Peirce, Richard Williams, Mark Cassidy and (from the Isle of Wight, right off the bottom of England,) Graham Brown.
Topically, Gareth gave us to think about "The Unnecessary Misogynist" and reminded us that "Spiders have Rights Too". His poem entitled "To a Certain Estate Agent" looked like being very short (" 'Liar! Liar!' - probably leave it at that").
But "Bedhampton West" did make salient points about the dubious attractions of a suburb blessed by estate agents with a compass-point suffix. Gareth's pastiche of Bob Dylan, "Tangled up in Bike" also had us all smiling. He had wise but sad comments to make about what would happen "if we tried to be Lovers".
This was a performance that did what Gareth says on the tin - the observations of modern man up against the vagaries of luck and social pressure. Or, in his last poem, "I Bunked Off With A Punk Girl" the disillusionment of a teenaged boy who tries to make a stand for rebellion against the forces of convention. There were grins of recognition from most of the audience!
Her poem in the voice of the wolf-boy, Peter, who was lost in a forest and brought up without language by wild animals, is extraordinary. Peter was found and kept as a kind of pet at court - it's a true story (I think) from the 17th century. Kitty's poem is a masterpiece of empathy with the boy's closeness to the natural world and his distress when he was removed to human society. A memorable line for me from that poem is: I had nothing at all but I sense that they have stolen something".
Kitty's website is at www.kittyrcoles.com.
The next three readers were all Portsmouthians. Richard Williams had a bucolic scene of Hampsire harvest with a suspicion of darkness - We all dance to our shadows one last time, Feng-Shui on the Fratton Road (exotic?) and a poem on The Domestication of Ghosts.
Richard Peirce had a tale of the romantic Orient somewhat blighted by an injured foot in Bangkok, and a poem inspired by Blade-runner and the things Richard had not seen. In 'Rosie's Bar' in exotic Portsmouth he introduced Rosie ...
raised in love under 4000 suns,
inhale the scent of her cinnamon skin...
It was great to meet isobel Kenyon, a new face to the Keep. Some of Isobel's poems were inspired by her recent holiday in New Zealand, where she felt that one day...
'...a huge wind will claim back...what human activity is covering up... and
... nature will claw back the cities...'
Her poem about the sadness and anxiety of dementia was also very moving.
Graham Brown, our fourth visitor from the deep south, was in seasonal mood, with 'January Blues' and a complaint by the recipient of all those difficult-to-wrap gifts during the twelve days of Christmas. Ever topical, he had also written about that photo from the 1960's, 'The Chair' - whose then beautiful and controversial occupant has just died.
My camera caught Ray Pool looking distinctly sad, perhaps when he was reading his poem about orphaned coat-hangers queuing like question marks, or perhaps it was the thought of Hugh Grant's Brylcream that was causing his soulful expression? It can't have been the Goldcrest in his garden - a joyful little poem for a joyful little bird.
David Russomano, another new face to the Keep, read from his chapbook 'Reasons for Moving'. I was impressed by 'What's Left' - the idea that the previous inhabitants of a house had left '...not exactly a haunting... more a marinade...'
Alex de Suys, returning to see us after many months, speculated about the god whom robots must worship and whom they must expect to look after them - the Cyborgs' god.
We were very glad to hear a poem from Sayeed, who manages Guildford's excellent Oxfam Bookshop. His love poem about a holiday romance on the beach was very original and beautiful. We knew he wrote, but this was the first time we'd heard or read his work.
Karen Izod remembered the days when we all had milk delivered in glass bottles, and when she was allowed to drink milk warm from the cows on the farm she visited, in the days before pasteurisation was common. Her second poem, in contrast, brought us up to the present and the anxiety in modern cities through fear of terrorist incidents.
Ivor Hartney read lyrics by a friend, Sean Raoul: "Trying to leave something behind". was the refrain.
Michael Cutchey read his dramatic Gothic tale, "To Walk Among the Tombs" and described an "Angel".