May Day’s weather had been like the proverbial curate’s egg: good in parts. By 7pm it was very chilly with a threat of rain and as usual we worried. Would the 1000 Monkeys turn out to come to May’s Keystone Open Mic or would they be holed up in a traffic jam after a frustrating day sheltering from the elements on Brighton beach?
We needn’t have worried. Twelve readers turned up, and so did an audience. Becky Fury made it down from London with time to spare and Alex Twyman had actually, heroically, brought his latest essay-in-preparation to work on, even before we ourselves arrived.
It turned out to be one of the best gigs of the year.
A fan of Charles Bukowski (see bukowski.net/poems) and the American poet Joe Bolton (see http://www.identitytheory.com/poetry-joe-bolton/) , Alex’s poems always provoke thought and awareness. Like the poets he admires, he can be depressive and often writes about self-destruction, loneliness and existential problems. He’s acutely aware of everyday experience and is totally honest in his writing.
Alex’s humour is cynical, black but never mannered. He can write as tenderly of a child’s losing her innocent awareness of a bird through her mother’s dismissive reply, as of an encounter with a Rumanian whore who had to give up playing the music she used to love at home in her own country because her guitar “was too heavy”.
Alex read a plain-speaking, direct set and had us following every train of thought and catching all of his often surprising imagery. His final poem was a moving extended metaphor: the bottle that’s empty after their one-night stand together hasn’t destroyed Alex’s ability as a fine poet.
Becky Fury amazed us with her ability to make very ribald feminist jokes about being a woman and yet keep her playful good humour and and be genuinely funny at the same time.
Her style and talent are epitomised in her diatribe about genital cosmetic plastic surgery: her climactic image of a woman "in need of" a cosmetic labiectomy taking off like Dumbo by flapping the offending parts remains stubbornly in the imagination, I find!
Her conclusion (that the men who demand this surgery for their partners are perhaps the superfluous pieces of flesh that need to be removed) is one of the best feminist arguments I’ve heard in a while!
Becky combines the cheekiness of a stand-up comedian with some excellect poems, always direct and forceful in imagery. Her command of the performance space and audience is highly charismatic, her stage presence very funny, sexy and engaging. She was at pains to explain that Fury really is her second name (we wondered if she protested too much). Whether or not that’s the case, Becky’s fury is artfully, humorously controlled by her Peckham Girl persona. We loved her.
Becky is taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer and we predict it will be a big hit.
We had a line-up of twelve open mic readers. Michael Cutchey led off with a poem inspired by listening to music in bed and followed up with “The Carcass of a Dream Undone”, his ekphrastic poem based on Wayne Barlowe’s illustrations to Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost.
in contrast to these large visions, Rochelle Parker read three poems, including “Year 3 are doing Music and Movement” which is to be published in “A Barrel of Monkeys”, our 2016 anthology.
Alex de Suys was in good form. Dolphins, conspirary theories and other political themes were followed up with a poem on one of Alex’s longest-running themes: bunny-rabbits.
Greg Freeman brought trains and a station-master to the mic and Kyle McHale read an excellent poem about poetry, in defiance of a competition he'd found that forbade entries of poems about landscape or poetry. (The competition readers were the losers, of course.) “Black Breath” was about alcoholism and “That is no place for Birds” is a landscape poem and a war poem. It will shortly appear on our “Stage to Page” web-page.
Karen Izod had found a Billy Collins poem : “Royal Aristocrats” which is also about writing: the physical business of writing on an old typewriter disturbing the night time silence with the “small arms fire” of the keys. “Enigma” was Karen’s haunting true story of a couple who had been code-breakers in WWII who died in separate homes on the same day without either knowing about the other’s death. Her third poem, “Storage” spoke of the joy of waking up to ‘aloneness’ that will turn to sad loneliness by evening.
Jeremy complained about becoming “Old-fashioned” and read a poem about landscape poems (poetry about poetry was becoming a theme) which correctly pointed out that “Not everything in Nature has a name”. The mystery of natural things in relation to people is the poet’s business more than the scientist’s.
Andy V considered the 21st Century and its limitations and remembered a romantic encounter “When Artist met Poet” in two entertaining poems.
Owen Osler took up the theme in “The Artist” and made us all smile with his unexpected punchline. Martin Jones supposed a few corrections to Shakespeare’s view of the history of Scotland in “Troubled Inheritance’, which were obviously not comparible with Elizabeth the First’s view of history.
Andy B J Low had poems about P G Wodehouse’s infuriating but delightful character, Bobby Wickham, and some regrets about those things that have been left undone ( the hand not extended, the kindness not done) and that now can never can be done.
And so the May edition of the Keystone Poetry Open Mic was done.
Next at the Keystone: on Tuesday 17th May
Timothy Adés, poet and translator of poems, is featuring in a special extra session on the theme of Robert Desnos and Surrealist poetry. Desnos was almost a survivor on the Nazi death camps but died as he was liberated at the end of WWII. He was the originator of "automatic writing" as a means to unlock the unconscious fantasies that Surrealist artists treasured and was only dropped from the group when he began editing and crafting his drafts.
There's an open mic as usual and you might like to unleash your own most imaginative poems there!
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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.