November 2nd was an exciting day for this particular Monkey of the (notional) One Thousand – the day that I (Jan Windle) tottered back into public view at the Keystone after being virtually housebound since my accident on 28th August. Equipped with Dónall’s Parisian paisley patterned walking stick and modelling a big, comfortable air-boot, I arrived in a taxi and found a lovely group of human beings at the Keystone, some of whom I’d only seen on Dónall’s videos and photos from the last two events. Considering the early darkness and three days of thick fog, there was a good turn-out of readers and listeners.
Raymond, our featured writer, was as erudite and intelligent – and as full of surreal statements – as Dónall told us to expect. To an audience who hung on every word and laughed in all the right places, he expounded his philosophy of life, death and the space in between, in a series of aphorisms, black jokes and “serious” poems, in his inimitable style (something between deadpan and indignant). His book, “The Runner of Little Races” (Black Box) was selling at a discounted price, and there were eager takers. It's also available through Waterstone's and on Amazon here. Raymond will be back in Guildford, we hope, in 2016.
Dónall was in a Louis MacNeice mood, and was able to give us his favourites from the poet’s work , “Sunlight on the Garden” and “Autobiography”. His newest poem, about Billy the Kid playing croquet in a cardigan, had its debut, after an informative introduction on the history of the game in the nineteenth century. “Passing Strange” is on track to becoming a standard as he’s able to perform it by heart. A couple of playful Hallowe’en poems completed Dónall’s warm-up set.
It was good to meet the Tramping Artisan, Jim Carter, in person, before his ten-day trip to San Francisco. Jim has also published a collection of his poems, available on Amazon: “The Kids who Live on the Moon” (Labyrinthe Press, 2015). In his five minute set he introduced us to an Irish American lady, the Express Bus, a Life Seer and most impressively, a Leatherette Villanelle which drew gasps of amazement from the rest of us. That poem is in the book, a seasonal warning about Christmas present slippers!
After the break, the light went a little bit spooky and so did some of the poems. Ray Pool wore his brocade waistcoat as a signal, he said, that things were going to turn Hallowe’eny. So his ballads of a ghostly tin miner on a clifftop and a spooky tube traveller (probably stuck in a time-warp on the Circle line) were warmly received.
James Holbrook warned us that he would be reading a dark set. It wasn’t all bad news. Though the end of the world was the message of his first poem, “Innocence will be restored when time has stopped” he assured us. “Be calm” he said.
James’ final poem, about Culloden Field, took me back to my school-days in Fife, when a lesson on that tragic battle turned accusing eleven-year-old heads in my direction.
Tony B had Questions and Answers that intertwined like a Delphic Oracle serpent, a heartfelt love poem and “Lists and Me”, a list poem about lists with a sting in the tail – never forget to take your wife’s list with you if you want peace at home.
Kyle McHale, like Dónall, has been learning his poems by heart. He performed “Wrong or Right” with great élan and no mistakes. He read about family and fireflies, too, in “Wine by the St Lawrence”, one of his most fluent pieces about nature and landscape.
All he wants is what he had
That falling poppy called his dad.
Andy B J Low was as usual splendid in his custom-built hat and delivered an opulent set of his elegantly erotic poems in praise of "pointy bits". His dream "to wake and see you in the morning / to fill you with endorphins" and "take big breaths" caused quite a flutter late in the evening!
Eddie Chauncy has been learning his fine poem about time: clocks never learn, we’re haunted by time, we can’t stop the clocks (an echo of WH Auden there). He delivered it without missing a beat.
“Smiles” and his poem containing the lovely image “Write me a poem on my cheek” completed Eddie's set.
So ended another night of good poetry, good humour, quality readers and a brilliant, appreciative audience.