National Poetry Day this year was Thursday 6th October - as I write, in fact, poets are gathering at the Southbank and other venues all over Britain to celebrate it.
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.
Dónall, still in mourning for his brother, was in elegaic mood, but he began with a rousing rendition of the poem that he wrote as a commission to be broadcast on BBC Regional Radio for National Poetry Day. It was broadcast this morning, with an interview with Dónall in the BBC studio on the campus of the University of Surrey. Here's our own video of the interview.
Richard Hawtree almost out-Corked Dónall (who was already uncorked, I think) with his poem about Helping Syllables - those vowels included in Irish English to help the flow of speech in words with "lm" or "rm" in them. He also received very warrum applause for an elegant and very funny poem called Shedding Tears - a response to the Aeneid Book II.
Kyle McHale, looking relaxed in his new job at Wisley, was revisiting childhood joys - collecting shells, enjoying their forms, colours and textures. As the Boy on the Fence that he remembers he was, he's crossing years, observing that boy from today's maturity.
Next month at the Keystone: Our featured poet is
Wendy Klein on Monday 7th November
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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.