Leicester Shindig: March 2012

Hot on the heels of States of Independence came the bi-monthly poetry event jointly hosted by Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators.

The first open mic poet to the floor was yours truly, reading He Came To Me from the current issue of Under the Radar and a recently re-worked poem about the Old Man of Hoy.  Next came Charlie Jordan, former Birmingham poet laureate, with Words.  And what a treat hers were.  I liked ‘Peel your words like a ripe avocado’s thin tarmac skin.’

Kate Ruse followed, reading two poems about Nijinski (the dancer, not the racehorse)from her forthcoming Original Plus pamphlet. Knowing something of its journey, as a fellow member of Leicester Writers’ Club, I’m looking forward to reading this. I enjoyed Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s homage to Ian Dury’s Reasons to be Cheerful.  Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson’s beautiful love poems, I Know and Scars I remember featured on her blog.  Charles Lauder’s Coffee also appears in Under the Radar, and 69 in his newly-published pamphlet, Bleeds (Crystal Clear Creators).

Michael W Thomas was the first feature poet of the evening.  He entertained us with a poem about his father’s decrepit car ‘[squatting] on the driveway like a bulbous toad,’ ‘clearing throats of arterial roads’ so its passengers ‘[prayed] for Rhyl before the brakes gave out.’  He also paid tribute to the outmoded Especial and read from a sequence about childhood.

I enjoyed Jonathan Davidson’s humour, in particular On learning a Poem by Peter Didsbury (whilst walking along a ‘knife-narrow lane’).

After the interval, Jonathan Taylor introduced the Crystal Clear Creators’ half with Things Not To Be Mentioned at Antenatal Classes: a Guide for Fathers-To-Be. Refreshing to have the male POV!  Gary Longden followed with a rant/response to the death of pop stars (a spectator sport).  Good to hear open mic poems from Jane Commane and Matt Nunn, too.  The elephant in the room was the subject of a newly-penned poem by Matt Merritt.  I’d like to hear this one again/see it on the page.

Two of the Crystal Clear pamphleteers crowned the evening as feature poets.  Aly Stoneman defined Lost Lands as places imbued with memory, childhood landscapes.  Having just finished reading this, I enjoyed hearing a small selection read by the poet herself.

Andrew ‘MulletProof’ Graves, referring to Citizen Kaned as his ‘first album,’ read his favourite ‘track,’ Middle-Aged Mod.  I remember hearing MulletProof read this at Lowdham Book Festival in 2010; my first encounter with one of my favourite performance poets.

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Crystal Clear Creators pamphlet launch

After a wonderful evening of poetry and prose, I am simultaneously enticed into six very different word worlds, each exquisitelycrafted and ‘giftwrapped.’

Maria and Jonathan Taylor of Crystal Clear Creators hosted the launch of its six new pamphlets as part of De Montfort University’s Cultural Exchanges Festival.

An evening in two halves: open mic readings, followed by readings from the pamphleteers after a brief introduction by their respective mentors.

Deborah Tyler-Bennett said that Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves’ performance poems worked equally successfully on the page and the ear, their hard edge quality belying their tenderness.  ‘Mulletproof’, who describes himself as a frustrated rock ‘n’ roll star, began by reading Ceremony, or Mills & Boon meets council estate (his words): ‘star-crossed lovers’ take their post-coital ‘shower in the headlights and raindrop confetti.’  He followed with his ‘title track,’ Citizen Kaned: strongly evocative, an ‘inter Stella Artois cruise’ through a booze-soaked world. To end, an ink-still-wet tribute to Davy Jones: poignant, tender.

Maria Taylor described her mentorship of Jessica Mayhew as a mutual learning process, her mentee as a poet capable of transforming the everyday into the unfamiliar.  Jessica’s pamphlet, Someone Else’s Photograph, contains poems of the sea and her Shetland family history.   I loved the title poem’s onomatopoeic ‘shutter-click’, evocative ‘bone-stud limpets blink’ and the intrigue of ‘us on the other side of their photograph/walking away, crab-shadowed.’

In the absence of Wayne Burrows, Maria Taylor also introduced Roy Marshall, a poet with a talent for compressing language that makes experiences so immediate.  Rose, the opening poem in Gopagilla: achingly tender, his newborn son ‘a mirror of his mother,’ sound-echoed in ‘murmurs’ and ‘miniature.’  We are left with the beautiful image of ‘her sleep-slackened rose.’

Mark Goodwin introduced Charles G Lauder Jr: bodyscape poems inspired by the work of Lucian Freud, Bleeds uses daring language and varied visual play to explore femininity from the male perspective.  Scheherazade Arrives in Boston, the opening poem, immediately engages the reader with its intriguing title and theme of obsession.  Touchable: a series of three poems: in II, ‘red rivers’ dry to ‘brown continents,’ mapping the bed and rendering her ‘untouchable.’  III, truly a poem from the heart, is my personal favourite.  But more of that in a future blog post.

David Belbin mentored the only prose writer amongst the newly-published six.  In Without Makeup and Other Stories: Hannah Stevens, a DMU graduate, manipulates language and tense with precision to create vulnerable characters inhabiting a fragile world.  She read the title story: I engaged with the clipped sentences. The opening paragraph immediately raises questions in the reader: ‘The room looks away’: an arresting viewpoint.

Aly Stoneman’s reading from Lost Lands closed the evening.  Mark Goodwin introduced her a landscape poet whose water-themed poems have a musicality that rings through them, pliable yet able to cut rock.  her work is myth-rich; personal, yet universal.  I enjoyed and will re-visit I Put Away Childhood Things. I was captivated by Aly’s reading voice, her fluid hand gestures and sinuous body language.  I can’t wait to meet her words on the page.  Again, more later.

I’m already venturing inside those tantalizing Helen Walsh covers…