This month’s guests at the Keep were Becky Fury and Hannah Stone, and they offered very different spoken word performances. I would love to show you snippets of each of their sets, but the Monkey camera failed to load most of my video clips for editing and then deleted those not imported, so you’ll have to take my word for it – both Becky and Hannah were in their different ways remarkable.
Dónall claimed to be haunted by his own ghost – by a lucky chance the video of his five minutes was salvaged from the technological wreck and here it is.
Becky Fury lived up to Dónall’s introduction as a dangerous lady in her first set, and managed to raise the roof when she seized upon Jeremy, who was rashly sitting in the front row! “Turn the camera off!” he cried, and so there is no record of his gentlemanly “Good Evening” as Becky leapt on to his lap! Becky’s show for the Edinburgh Fringe this year is APOCOLOPTIMIST – a work in progress. She is firmly feminist and had hard words to share about the Cinderella trope/myth/fairytale that traps girls in a “princess” stereotype. Her version of the fairy story, brought up to date and shorn of its glitter, had everyone laughing with her. Her comments about Tinder dating raised a comment from the floor about penguins which led to a running joke about Penguin Man (it’s a long story – don’t ask!)
Hannah Stone had poems from her two collections, Lodestone ( Stairwell Books, 2016) and Missing Miles (Indigo Dreams 2017). Hannah’s poems are grounded in the everyday, observed in rich detail. She brings an unexpected element of the surreal to such experiences as a manicure shop or a massage. Her nails redesigned, coloured and filed, she wonders if she could be transformed into a different species, and “Do they eat Earthlings?”. Land Ahoy, one of the poems she wrote for Dylan Thomas Day, evokes a seaman's experience of a reaching the shore of Dylan Thomas's Wales, perhaps met by Billy Pritchard asking, 'Is it good crabs, where you come from, then?'
In Drip Feed an "unsummoned philosopher" harangues the narrator as she sits reading and waiting for the library to open. "Why you bother, he finishes / and the small craft in his angry mind / tacks off as he lurches / into the unresponsive ocean of Russell Square." The image is of ships 'passing in the night', each on a course, as she continues the "slow drip-feed of knowledge, bot'h bound for oblivion by their own route.
Hannah's poems range wide in their subjects and inspiration. The Compleat Angler, based on the book about fishing by Isaac Newton is, surprisingly, about another journey - the progress of a love affair in terms of the jargon of fishing (the hook, the lure, the bait).
Richard Peirce told a moving story of The Keeper of his Heart – as Dónall pointed out, a poem set in rural Ireland that could be located anywhere in the world. The nineteen-sixties in Gosport brought back memories to many of us, including me, and The Art of International Falling took us to Asia and other exotic places – we shouldn’t have laughed at this tale of the wrong kind of trips, but we did.
After Becky Fury’s first set, Richard Hawtree had Dónall’s label of Penguin Man to live down, which he expertly and effortlessly managed to do. A mediaeval specialist, Richard first read a fragment he’s translated from a very ancient Irish poem. He explained his abandoned project to publish a pamphlet of translations from the same source – but his research revealed the fact that only seven fragments are known to exist – and he’d already translated this one! We also loved his poem about The Cross-Bar Lever invented by Elizabeth Iliffe, who from 1784 to 1803 was the mistress and briefly the wife of Lord Egremont of Petworth House. The room was rocking with laughter – Richard’s timing rendered this piece unexpectedly and irresistibly funny. Read this link to find out a little more about Elizabeth Iliffe. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house-and-park/features/the- A recollection of the Iliad was also a revelation and a surprise – a garden window and a blackbird features of this short lyrical piece.
Karen Izod’s poems, in particular Memory Haikus, further extended the thread.
Andy B J Low read on the same topic, from his sequence-in-progress about Body and Soul.
Jeremy Loynes’s take on memory was Take the Old Road (a landscape poem, literally a trip down memory lane). He mourned the problem of plastic pollution in Throwaway Society and with his third poem he was Welcoming the Spring.
Eddie Chauncy’s poems were full of memorable lines, as always: “There comes a moment when we all make sky…”; “Friends are enemies we’ve forgiven; Enemies are friends whom we have not …”. Mmm was a moving poem in memory of a sister’s death from cancer.
Ray Pool read Housewife, Sweet Morag (surely another memory) and Skeleton Staff. Drily humorous as ever, Ray gave us all a smile.
Next month on June 5th we feature J S Watts, whose pamphlet “The Submerged Sea” was published last month, and Bryan Baker, an old friend who as well as writing rather surreal poems is also a talented painter.
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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.