Monthly Archives: September 2013

John Cooper Clarke et al in Wakefield

I just had to write about my evening at the Theatre Royal in Wakefield last night (29.09.2013).

We arrived in plenty of time to have a coffee in the theatre cafe, and to wander upstairs to look around. Of course, I bought JCC’s collection Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt from the Waterstones book table. First published in 1977-83, here are all the old favourites that made me like him to start with.

We found our seats in the stalls and sat and waited. I looked around the theatre, a Victorian palace, all plaster moulding picked out in gold. The seats are comfortable, the old style theatre seats in red plush. The ceiling looks as if it was painted by Michaelangelo the day he didn’t drink his Berocca; all cherubs and heavenly, a Sistine Chapel needing a touch up. The decor was lovely. The swags of the stage curtains still had dust on that must have collected when Marie Lloyd was doing music hall. I was fascinated because everywhere else looked pristine. But I suppose getting up there with the dusting brush of your Dyson would be a bit of an H&S nightmare. There were floor lights on the stage that looked like little Tardises. I started to hum the Dr Who tune, and the friend I was with joined in, seeing what I saw. It’s good to have friends on the same wavelength! It should be said, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. If all audiences were that large and that responsive, poets would be happy readers.

Unbeknown to us, JCC shared the bill with two other fantastic performance poets: Mike Garry and Luke Wright. Mike Garry is a  poet from Fallowfield, Manchester and his poetry is humorous with a serious, political statement. That’s political in a small p, social context, not a ranting inter/national way. I loved it, must look for his book online. Being a Manc, he included a tribute to the Hacienda’s Tony Wilson. Good stuff.

Luke Wright is from Essex, Braintree, which he calls a misnomer for Essex. He recited his ‘Essex Lion’ poem. If you don’t know it, look it up, it was so funny; and so well performed. He included Posh Plumber and a poem about a boy at Charterhouse School who is obesessed with drawing penises on every surface.

After an interval, the man we all came to see, John Cooper Clarke. I was a bit concerned because before I went someone told me he’d gone off since he got off the drugs. He hadn’t. The energy of the man is incredible. He has an easy relationship with the audience, so it was an interactive event in no small measure. It is clear the audience were there for him. He didn’t disappoint. He performed ‘evidently chicken town’, obviously, and ‘i wanna be yours’. He performed poems we know well, and newer ones. The man’s a legend. 64 and still giving it out on full power. I’m so glad I went.

So, this was an evening of stand-up-meets-poetry. They hit it off very well. I haven’t laughed so much since I was at the Fermoy Poetry Festival with some lovely friends in August. If you get chance to see/hear any of these three poets, take it. You won’t be sorry. Unless you object to that ‘f’ word; then you’ll be very disappointed. But, hey, keep an open mind. It’s JCC after all.

I have to go. I’ve got to find Mike Garry’s book on tinterweb. Bye!

Living it

I sometimes think my life would be empty without poetry. What did I fill up on before I discovered it? Oh, yes. Work.

I’ve just survived another week full of words, so I’ll share it with you.

On Tuesday evening, it was the East Manchester and Tameside Stanza, a group I co-ordinate. We meet on the last Tuesday of the month at Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar to celebrate poetry. This week we did a close reading of Lucy Burnett’s poem ‘A Rainbow Will Equivocate’ from her collection Leaf Grafitti. It always amazes me how many interpretations there can be of one poem. It just shows that the reader also brings something to the creative process. We had a writing exercise based on a Jane Yeh poem, ‘The Birds’ from The Ninjas: that wonderful way she has of combining the factual with the bizarre! Some good poems germinated. We welcomed three new members this week too. A year ago we were featured on Ruth Padel’s Poetry Workshop on BBC R4 and our numbers soared after that, settling back in the summer to the old originals, so it was good to have new poets attending. Next time, Bryony is going to lead the writing exercise, which should be interesting. Her style of poetry is experimental. I’m looking forward to trying out something different.

On Wednesday I went with some friends to Nantwich Poets. The first part of the evening was devoted to a reading by Andrew Rudd, followed by a verse drama by Joy Winkler: Town. How good was that, Joy reciting her work with all its characterisations, and Andrew Rudd providing atmospheric background music on keyboard and hand-held percussion? Town is touring Cheshire at the moment. If you get chance to go and see it you must, it’s not to be missed. I loved it. I loved it so much I bought the script despite promising not to buy any more poetry books this century!

The second half of the evening was an open mic session at which I and my friends read. I tried out some new poems on the audience, poems that I have written since I came back from Greece a fortnight ago. Always good to have a chance to try out new work. It was a lovely evening all round, and I met up with lots of old friends from our MMU Writing School days.

On Saturday I was off to Wakefield Orangery again with poetry friends. We went for the Versions of the North readings. Ian Parks introduced poets who read from the anthology. It was another good event celebrating the diverse poetry of Yorkshire.  But I’d like to remind Ian that ‘the North’ isn’t exclusively synonymous with ‘Yorkshire’. There is a lot more to the north than contained in the White Rose county. There are some tremendous poets from Lancs, Cumbria, Northumberland, not to mention over the border into Scotland. Perhaps we should have an anthology that celebrates the true north; all of it.

We went to explore Wakefield after the readings and I was surprised at what a nice city it is: a lovely Cathedral (although there was a service on when we got there so we didn’t go in); it looks very light and airy from an eye pressed up to the door, though! I bought a new teapot in the British Heart Foundation shop to replace the lidless one I was using at home. And I bought a new wok to replace the sticking non-stick one that I have woked to death. So all round, a good day.

Must rush, I’m off to Wakefield again this evening to see/hear John Cooper Clarke. I’ve admired his poetry for years so I hope he doesn’t disappoint. I’ll report next week.

A Marathon Weekend of Poetry

The road to hell…good intentions. When I started this blog earlier in the year I meant to update it every week. David Borrot, who has just begun a new blog, has shamed me into updating  for the first time for a couple of months, with news of the marathon weekend of poetry I just about survived. Thanks David.

The marathon involved two friends: Kim Moore, a wonderful poet I met on the MA at Manchester Metropolitan and Ben Johnson whom I met at the Fermoy Poetry Festival in August 2013 when we were two of three international winners of the Fermoy Competition. Kim was in Fermoy as well; we had a lorra laffs!

On Friday evening, Kim and Ben joined a Poetry Skype from Kim’s home in Barrow in Furness, linking with poets from the Netherlands, Ireland and Texas. This was part of the Cork Night of Culture. I couldn’t join in the Skype as the internet signal was seriously weak on Friday night (one of the downsides of rural living) but I did catch some of it, especially Kim and Ben reading under torchlight to increase the light levels in her house. Technology eh?

On Saturday I went into Manchester for the Poets and Players event at the Chinese Arts Centre in the Northern Quarter, at which I was introducing the wonderfully enigmatic and darkly humorous Jane Yeh. The ‘Players’ were Li Lu (cello) and Despina Reid (violin), performing a Ravel Sonata in four parts, which was wonderful. Jane Yeh’s reading from her new book ‘The Ninjas’ was terrific. It has one of my favourite poems in: The Ghosts, which was published in the Poetry Review earlier in the year. I don’t like people who make marks in books, but when I read the line ‘Some of us think death is just another kind of being lonely‘, I highlighted it because I didn’t ever want to forget it.  The whole collection is  quirky and surprising and well worth buying. If you haven’t been to a Poets and Players event before you really should, they are SO GOOD. You don’t know what you’re missing!

I met Kim and Ben before the event and our marathon weekend began with lunch at Cafe Rouge in Manchester. They came along to the P&P event after lunch, and feedback from them was very positive. After the event Kim drove us up to Ulverston for the Poem and a Pint event that she helps to organise. Ben and I claimed an open mic spot each, but the headline reader was the lovely Buddhist poet, Maitreyabandhu. There was a bit of a heart stopping moment when British Rail carelessly lost him, but they located him in lost luggage or somewhere, and he arrived just in time for the start of the evening. The audience was lovely, very giving and appreciative. The venue was packed. Such a good event. Lizzie Hare read several of her poems and I was impressed enough to have to buy her pamphlet ‘Out of the Ordinary’. I also bought Maitreyabandhu’s collection ‘The Crumb Road’ when he read from the ‘Stephen’ sequence in the second half, despite promising myself I wouldn’t buy any more poetry books. But how can you not? I probably have a bigger collection than the British Library now, many of them signed by the poets.

After Poem and a Pint Kim, her husband Chris, Ben and I had an Indian meal: it was about 11.00 pm and we hadn’t eaten since midday, then we all shook down at Kim and Chris’s house for the night. After an impromptu breakfast, we were off again. We drove across to Wakefield, a two and a half hour journey, for the Poetry Business Writing Workshop, which was productive as ever. I don’t think I came home with any literary masterpieces, but I did come home with ideas for poems to work up at my own pace. I think I might have three decent poems from the day. We had lunch and tea breaks al fresco: the weather was absolutely gorgeous, real India summer. After the workshop there was a reading by poets in the Poetry Business stable, namely River Wolton, Geoff Hattersley, Simon Currie, Cathy Benson and Kim Moore. Five poets, five very different styles, an interesting reading session.

After the event, poor Ben had to drive back to the New Forest for work on Monday and Kim drove back to Barrow, dropping me off at J22 of the M62. Ben thought he had won ‘last man standing’ as he didn’t get home till after midnight; but when Kim told us she fell asleep updating her poetry blog with news of the weekend, he had to concede top spot. After another Indian meal (!), this time with my partner, Bill,  I collapsed into bed at 10.30, asleep  within minutes, lightweight that I am.

But at least I won the wooden  spoon. That’s good, isn’t it? Isn’t it?