Great atmosphere in the Bar last night - hardy poets and poetry-lovers braving the edge of the hurricane listened and read in a night that saw Pete Jardine spinning tales like a Tyneside spider, Karen Withecombe taking us all to task in the nicest possible way (yes, we do have business cards and one of us had a beret last night!) and Stephen Boyce charming the room's socks off with his lovely poems from "The Sisyphus Dog" and "Desire Lines". Begun slowly, the evening was finally filled with friends old and new. Filled with pleasure, too.
We didn’t start up until almost 8 o’clock, by which time we had more than a quorum of poets and audience. It was good to have time to chat with Stephen Boyce, who had come up from Hampshire. We’d met him a couple of times before, at a workshop he ran at the Hammer and Tongues Poetry Festival in the Old Tower in Southsea, and again when he was one of the organisers of the Winchester Poetry Festival this year.
Pete Jardine was also an early arrival we were glad to see again. He confessed to an incipient migraine and we decided to introduce him for his feature spot early in the proceedings. His tales of alien mouse invasion and his bluffer’s guide to writing rhymed poetry were as much fun as ever, even though he finished on a definitely downbeat note, swearing to give up being a poet. We really hope he didn’t mean it!
We were happy to see some new faces, including Eleanor and Phoebe, who were “casing the joint” before deciding to take part in a spoken word event they’d only just discovered. “Pastor John” was there, too, aka Po John Barrow – we’d heard him read in Brighton and London and were pleased when he put his name down on the open mic list.
Richard had brought a friend, Vicky, also from Barbados. Richard was very dapper in a lovely white suit and a red beret. He’d brought us a cutting from the Surrey Advertiser, about his new status as a Published Poet in the anthology, too.
David Evans, who has become a regular reader at our events, had brought some new poems to share. Kyle McHale read (after checking that we understood his “foreign accent"!) poems of an American childhood that brought the majestic landscape and birds of his Virginia homeland to life for us.
We were getting worried about Karen Withecomb, who hadn’t arrived by eight. Coming all the way from Brighton by public transport made her the most adventurous poet on the list – so we were very relieved when she arrived, windswept from the awful night outside, having been roaming all over Guildford in search of the Bar, despite the map I’d sent. The Guildford one-way system is anything but user-friendly and Karen’s not the first to get lost on the ten minute walk from the railway station!
We thawed her out and stood her in front of the mike and were rewarded with twenty minutes of Karen at her acerbic best! As she confessed to Dónall afterwards, “I seem to have offended everyone in the room tonight!” but we’d all heard of poetic licence and irony and enjoyed her fun at the expense of open mics, book launches and poseurs – because, of course, none of the present company was a poseur!
We were delighted when Alwyn Marriage, who’s reading at the Bar as a featured poet next month, dropped in and read a five-minute slot. Dónall persuaded her to read us one of her poems from the Anthology, in praise of Lycra – a sensuous piece – luckily our resident cyclist Eddie was away working in Amsterdam, to spare his blushes! Alwyn also read some of her new poems, from “Notes from a Campervan,” of which more next month.
We were also pleased to see Andy Low, who had brought some new poems and was prevailed upon to share them with the company.
We were happy to swap money for his beautifully produced books. On stage, Dónall tried using the fake stuff but was foiled - only the real McCoy secured these excellent collections, together with the gift of Stephen’s pamphlet of poems about Winchester’s historic sites, “Something Persists”.
These are wonderfully detailed yet universal poems. Moments of revelation through tiny incidents, little daily observations, sensual perceptions, open into wide perspectives seen from the corner of an eye, or rein attention back in on an awareness of self, or a lover, a place or a moment in time. We’re reading and rereading, delighted – the exchange of banknotes for words not regretted for a moment. You can read more about Stephen Boyce and his work here.
And finally, we had two surprise open mic readers. Justine, who had been working hard behind the bar most of the night, stepped up to read one of her poems from her school days, and George, a new face at the Bar, read his translation into Welsh of "Do Not Go Gentle" by Dylan Thomas, so completing another night of unexpected pleasures. We hope to hear more from these brave young people in coming months.
This is Justine. We also have video footage that we'll share later with Pete's and Karen's permission.