It was ‘normal service resumed’ on 7th August at the Keep, when we went back to our usual Open Mic format after July’s session was taken up with the launch of the POEMS TO KEEP Anthology. (The launch was a fantastic night with almost half of the 54 contributors coming in to read, and an audience to match them!)
Paris, Stage Left is divided into three sections appropriate to its theatrical theme: History; Tragedy; Comedy. All are shot through with humour, however bitter at times, rooted in observation and knowledge of what it’s like to live as an expatriate in Paris.
The city’s sights and its people are interleaved with personal memories, like the cream cakes in Walking to Bread :
Madame gives me tarte aux poires to taste
with my crème – just a little bite, she winks.
Just one, Dad, my mum says …
The one-eyed crow is sharp
makes his point with gore, not
his bill, caws a little acid at me.
Even the spear-headed hydrangeas
agree with necessary statements
point to innocence lost
and the difficulty of deckchairs.
The yew reddens into secrets
shadows creep across the grass
ants feast on my legs.
Kate’s engaging reading from this rich and varied collection drew us willingly into the world of “her” Paris. I’m glad to have bought her book, where I can explore it further.
| || |
In her second set, Kate revealed another side: dark humour and some gothic imagery. Sharp observation, detailed, focused, direct and honest, is at the heart of her poems. Only thus could her precise but lyrical description of drinking an espresso coffee from a thick china cup have held us spellbound!
Dónall had flown back from Ireland where he had family business to attend to, only getting back into Guildford two hours beforehand, so we might have worried that he wouldn’t be his usual ebullient self, but he showed no sign of flagging as he performed W H Auden’s Let the More Loving One be Me and introduced our open mic readers.
We were happy to have Kitty Coles reading a strong 5-minute set. From her new pamphlet, she read the title poem, Seal Wife (Indigo Dreams). Madame Charcot was inspired by Maggie Sawkins’s account of the treatment of ‘hysteria’ in women by Victorian psychiatrists and The Insealing dealt with the practice of sewing up the eyelids of birds of prey when taming them.
Rochelle Parker had words about The Crawley Corby and a memory of having to wear a dress, aged ten, at My Sister’s Wedding – her understated humour as usual making us smile.
We had a ‘Goodbye’ to say to Alex Twyman, who has finished his MA at Surrey University and landed a job in Blackpool where he’s becoming an establishment figure with a mortgage, so he says! Alex has been a staunch advocate of The 1000 Monkeys for the past two years or more (since our days at the Bar des Arts), and in 2015 had a poem included as a ‘guest’ in the Keystone Anthology. His inclination to iconoclasm and admiration of American poets like Joe Bolton have kept us on our toes and in no danger of getting trapped in comfort zones! Alex has the virtue of being a thoroughly honest and good-hearted friend, as well as a feeling, articulate writer. We wish him all the luck and success in the world “oop north”. He will find his place in the many lively poetry open mics in Lancashire, we’re sure, and we’ll hope to see him down here reading at the Keep again one day in the future.
We celebrated the success of Kyle McHale’s fiancée, Laura Merrifield, as Captain of the England Lacrosse Team who won the bronze medal in the International Lacrosse Tournament held last month in Guildford. Kyle read three new poems, and also “Carry it with Pride”, the poem he wrote especially for Laura’s team. We all congratulated Laura, who has worked so hard for the team’s success.
Ray Pool charmed everyone with his poems, including Exit Slip.
Michael Cutchey , in full Goth regalia, had poems in homage to Ray Harry Hausen, the pioneering special-effects film maker of the 1960’s.
Greg Freeman surprised us by avoiding the subject of trains in favour of memories of a demonstration against the ‘Milk Snatcher’ (Thatcher) at a girls’ school, a poem about bicycles and a speculum poem.
Lizzie was a welcome new face and her surreal poem was intriguing. We hope we’ll hear more. And another new poet was Kirsty, who came along with Dan Smith. She read very confidently and we’ll look forward to more from her next month, I hope.
Eddie Chauncy questioned, How did you come here? and explored Special Water in his philosophical search for truth and healing.
Karen Izod read three of her beautifully balanced poems, with the quiet humour that is one of the hallmarks of her poetry.
Ivor Hartney was back, after a time away when he's been involved in theatre and music. He brought a song as well as a poem. We hope Ivor will be back to give us more music and words in September.
We're back at The Keep on September 4th, with Agnes Meadows as our guest.