Our Keystone event for October was on Monday of that week and we celebrated it with a visit from a fantastic Northern Irish poet, now based in Colchester. Seamus Fox is a powerful voice for fairness, equality and kindness of the most robust kind, and a strongly expressive writer. We had become aware of his talent when we saw him in London, performing his brilliant poem, This is not your Country and we were so glad when he agreed to come and perform a full set for us in Guildford.
Seamus had to combat an unusually noisy environment at the Keystone on 3rd October. But he raised his game accordingly and delivered a gritty, assertive set that succeeded in reaching even the big group of snow-sports enthusiasts who were having a knees-up at the far end of the bar. We regretted that he was prevented from delivering more tender poems ("Pitiful" for example) in a softer tone, but that was the night that was in it, as Dónall would say. In any case, Seamus is a master of an incisive, deadpan delivery that gives his words inescapable weight but still allows him telling nuances of tone.
Starting off with The World is Flat, Seamus took us through a gamut of moods from indignation to irony, sadness to wry humour. Equality lies in recognising we're all human, seeing no differences among our fellow men and women, respecting all, that's the theme of Seamus' poems, illustrated by his intense observations of ordinary people. Death is no surprise to him, though there are elegies in this set.
Here's Seamus on the subject of "The Cool Muslim". You can catch his whole set on our channel on YouTube.
We had a full house of fourteen open mic readers, including some from as far away as Portsmouth and "That London", and some old friends we hadn't seen for a while.
Gareth Toms from the Portsmouth group "Tongues and Grooves" kicked off with a plea for the rights of spiders, followed by two poems for National Poetry day, and rather a dark fantasy about killing tourists (not in a nice way, either. But we forgave him because he'd made us laugh first) Here he is, looking less than murderous, I'm glad to say.
It was good to see Rochelle Parker reading again. Her account of becoming a woman (having spent her chlldhood being a cowboy and a Merry Man with Robin Hood) gave us all a smile. The inevitability of the emegence of 'funny feelings about Elvis Pressley' was something that several of her listeners could relate to.
Ivor Hartney was another poet who had "stayed too long away" (I think that's from A E Housman) but was back. I always enjoy his "Crystal Spheres" fantasy poem.
("Flags and vows are used as shrouds
To bury deep beneath the ground
His new poem, Naked is apocalyptic. And for Ivor, Cupid is a violent violator of hearts.
Jeremy Loynes was in elegaic mood for two of his pastoral pieces: Back Lanes and Apples. In contrast, Out of Sorts was a playful nonsense poem that made everyone smile.
Ray Pool's ambition was to rhyme with the Titanic and to Pretend to Love Each Other Even if We Don't, but I don't think he was serious about that. The Nine Elms Powerhouse was remembered in an affectionate poem about trains in the 1960's..
Greg Freeman wanted to write like Ernest Hemingway, and enlisted Boxers and Matadors to help (wives, canoes, you have to take sides). He took us on tours of Budapest and the Islands of Stockholm.
Jason Why, visiting from London where he hosts Paper Tiger, a performance night at the Vauxhall Teahouse, performed his highly interactive poem-building act. Combining Angels, Subterranean and Parsnips in one extempore piece was not beyond Jason's creative capabilities.
Eddie Chauncy gave us more of his philosophical sonnets. Andy V Frost had not yet arrived, but he would have enjoyed Eddie's thoughts on Bikers: that judging from their behaviour vis-a-vis their bikes, they should be in charge of the division of souls at the end of Time,
"accepting, respecting, standing back"
Karen Izod had a poem about her father-in-law which was less than affectionate but still warm, entitled Not an Easy Man Though he Could Affect Great Charm. The Womens's Ward and Saving Jumpers gave Karen an opportunity to observe people, her metier when she was a social worker.
Dexter's ballad about a fight with a man with an iron strangle-hold grip picked up on the earlier scary verses from Gareth.
Andy V Frost performed three of the poems from his set, which he has by heart and performs very confidently.
We were very pleased to welcome a new female poet among the performers, one of only three this month. Sarah is a lawyer and a fan and writer of SF poetry; her tale of alien invasion contributed one of the themes that emerged throughout the evening, fantasy.
Andy B J Low mused about a lover's body in a strong poem that brought us up short with its last line: (Your body my ass! is the note I wrote from it!). Light was his second topic.
There are still a couple of places left on the performance workshop that John Wheeler is leading at The Keep, Castle Hill, Guildford GU1 3EU, on Wednesday 12th October at 7.30pm.
If you'd like to join in, bring a poem you want to work on performing, and a pencil and some paper, and £5.00 on the night - but check with firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure there's still a space, before 11.30 on the day.
Andy Low runs a creative speed-writing group at Farnham Maltings, the arts centre in Farnham, 11 miles from Guildford. Dónall and I went to join in on Tuesday (it's every Tuesday) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Nice atmosphere. You can write poems or stories and share them or not as you wish. We can't go again for a few weeks but can offer lifts to two people. Let us know if you want a lift from Guildford to the Maltings on 6th November.
Wendy Klein on Monday 7th November