Friday, December 07, 2007

Overdrive 3

Another successful evening of beautiful music. The past two Overdrives have seen classical music and Indian sitars and tabla as the driving force. we were so lucky tonight to have the amazing drumming of Nat Bliney from the African Association to animate the evening.


Overdrive has warped a little to engage more young people involvement - always an essential aim - and it was great to hear performers as young as 14 doing their stuff via scenes from a play and covers of standards from the charts. A one off was the video presentation by Kris of his wrestling exploits - pure kitsch and pure enjoyment for most of the crowd.



So many artists, so much joy. If I had to single out a most memorable moment... it would be David Strickleton's astonishingly good song which he also performed at Riders on Friday: a song that reaches into you, viscerally, an absolute belter. I will hopefully put this on line soon. It is the best song I have heard in years. Huge amounts of creativity and sheer talent on this night and still the throngs stay at home glued to their boxes. Twas ever thus I suppose, but there is nothing that can compare to the real, live thing.



Some generously gave up their spots to allow for youthful indulgence on the part of others. It didn't go unappreciated and hopefully we will make amends at future events. Particular thanks to Gerry O'Gorman who motored from college to get there in time for his spot: a true pro.



With the dynamics shift, I hope we won't lose the faith in terms of Overdrive's essentials of creating new music and pushing the envelope. I suspect Mr Average does not know how hard it is to cooordinate such an enterprise: as with most things in life, there are always those who make allowances for those who won't.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Normafa

The rich as always breathe
the cleanest air up here where the sky
smiles on oaks and elms
greening Schwab Hill
as far as the finest walking boots
can take you.

Sylvan shrines to wayfarer
saints, lovers on benches
along blue-chicoried tracks,
recently liberated angels
fending off imaginary danger
in the country park
where the old man hires out his crates
of toys to the poorer
families up here on the bus
for a few Sunday hours closer to heaven

drably dressed, pushing their
secondhand pushchairs, taking in
the haze of the Danube far below:
a city forever recovering, a steady
optimism undampened even by
pools of sorrow down on Andrassy.

Pelotons of cyclists spin past
the electric gates of Hotel Normafa,
ten buses an hour ferry faces
up and down these soaring hills
until the sun peels away, dusk
lopes in like a bad dog
crossing the bridges that stitch
this city together.

Light bleeds fast
down these huge boulevards
but the ornate facades of Pest no longer
fear the night.

As taxis weave their diesel webs
over the river up into Buda
the road gets steeper
the granite less staunch
until the lights below are
glitter on a dressing room floor,
until the chic chalet-mansions of
Normafa serrate the hill’s edge.

Silence, balm: the stars kiss
the forest as it closes its last flowers
for another night while down by the river
a million tenants in 60s tenements
dare to dream the democratic dream.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Brave One

Jodie Foster's latest film has not been well attended locally until now but at last is starting to get good reviews in the serious press: I suspect it came out at the wrong time with reviewers concentrating on other more hyped productions. In fact, this a good film with plenty of twists and turns and a very credible plot. Foster is a very underrated actor and deserves a lot more column inches for this performance. Recommended.

Hovis remembered

Last night at The Phoenix saw a very special event: the premiere of Hovis in Wonderland a radio play by Dave Morgan based on the writing of the late local comedian and writer Hovis Presley with Nat Clare as the eponymous hero ably supported by other local poets and actors.

The audience clearly enjoyed the old Hovis humour and the open mic warm ups were also well-received. the whole thing reminded me a little of the Goon Show, particularly with the sound effects. I was there to provide some 'elevator music' as background in the bar, which is a very different thing from performing to a silent, captive audience but which still proved enjoyable. I hope this play gets another airing as it's a good night for the audience.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Another good George Clooney film

Michael Clayton

Yet another good one from Gorgeous George. Four star ratings from most of the critics and a very enjoyable film. Financed (produced) by the big wheels on the cast, this is a very competent film. Catch it this week or next at your local cinema.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

exchange theatre: Henry V



A very impressive Harry

Elliot Cowan is to be congratulated on an extremely real, credible Henry V: excellent diction, kingly bearing and presence, and in the lighter moments enough for us to be sure he is not a one trick pony. An outstanding performance.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Overdrive Success






OVERDRIVE 1 : Tuesday 2nd October 2007 at The Phoenix.

There were 20 performances in all:

2 classical pieces by a group from Chorley
3 spots of poetry accompanied by music
2 R&B / rock mixes on CD
2 keyboard-accompanied ballads
3 Nigerian songs
8 new songs accompanied by guitar(s)

Feedback (via anonymous forms) from musicians and audience was totally positive, people especially liking:

‘the bonhomie of the evening’
‘nice mix of material’
‘the diversity’
‘the variety’
‘the classical music group, James Hartnell, everything’ (whoever this was, your cheque’s in the post)
‘safe environment for new talent, appreciative audience, (I) like the environment of the Phoenix, well MC’d’
‘the atmosphere of support and acceptance, the facility to provide a stage for people who haven’t performed before’
‘originality, creative encouragement of event’
‘eclectic mix and interesting idea’
‘the variety of acts’
‘the atmosphere – relaxed and fun’

Participants were aged from about 10 yrs and up and included Amber Milton-White, Abi Idowu, 6 members of the Brett family, Luke Harrison, Mark Jones, Chris McWilliam, Dave Strickleton, Alan Gray, Bill Brierley, Don Parry and James Hartnell.

The next event, called cryptically OVERDRIVE 2 will take place on Tuesday 6th November(date to be confirmed) at The Phoenix starting at 7.30 pm. Details will be sent to those interested very soon. I hope you may be able to join us for OVERDRIVE 2.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dance: World Premiere of ‘Infinity’.

Saturday night saw a superb performance by the Rambert Dance Company at The Lowri.

The first piece ‘L’éveil’ , choreographed by Melanie Teall and featuring singer Melanie Marshall singing Kurt Weil’s ‘Je ne t’aime pas’ and Bricusse’s ‘Feeling Good’ explored aspects of femininity in new and thoughtful ways and was well received by the audience.

Then ‘Stand and Stare’, a brilliant look at the emotions behind Lowri’s paintings, choreographed by Darshan Singh Bhuller with music by Bartok took the whole evening to another level.

Karole Armitage's ‘Gran Partita’ set to Mozart featured one of the tenderest of lovers’ trysts ever depicted through dance. Sensory overload indeed.

The final work, the premiered ‘Infinity’ with its visceral electronic music, explored the human condition with clawing gestures and reptilean costumes. The audience went wild and rightly so. This was phenomenally good dance, the sort of performance that is welded into memory forever.
Choreography Garry Stewart, music Luke Smiles.


Astounding, disturbing, memorable, unique.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New Gig

The first overdrive session takes place on Tuesday October 2nd at The Phoenix in Bolton, featuring newly composed music from a wealth of musicians and composers. A showcase of all that's new and good in music. You saw it here first.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Royal Exchange Theatre: Pretend You Have Big Buildings

We received a special offer to go and see this play, the winning entry in the Bruntwood Competition by Ben Musgrave. Maybe the special offer was because the play had some poor reviews (which I only read after seeing it) and was thus not sold out.

As a theatregoer rather than hack critic or luvvy, I found this play well worth seeing. It covered a lot of issues and was an interesting production using minimalist scenery descending on pulleys onto the set. Some big names in the cast. I thought the acting was more than competent.

The critics did not see fit to lavish praise on this play, probably because it tries to cover many different themes and most critics seem to need a simple story line so that they can concentrate on other elements of a play.

Lynne Walker, writing in the Independent on Sunday, which is turning out to be the worst of the serious Sundays, found it ‘underwhelming and unconvincing’, referring to the ‘stilted acting’ and ‘patchy narrative’. Lyn Gardner in The Guardian nailed it for me with her rather more generous ‘sprawling play with a big heart’.

I think Musgrave will go on to write better plays but as a debut this was most promising. Billy Seymour’s Steven was the funniest role I have seen for a while. I did not find the acting stilted. This was an ambitious play, which is not a bad thing, and far less formulaic than others I have seen this year.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BSW go to the Lowry. 4th July 2007



Bank Street Writers’ jaunt to The Lowry on 4th July gave us some very useful insights into the artist and his work. We were given an excellent introduction to the man and his life by Susanna and then poet in residence Norman Parry gave us a tour of the site and read some of his poetry based on the Lowry and its art.
A very interesting afternoon which I’m sure will produce some excellent writing from the group later.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bourbon Street Preachers in Ramsbottom



I managed to catch the first hour of the Bourbon Street Preachers gig at The Royal Oak in Ramsbottom on this last wet night of a wet June. Amongst the numbers I heard was the excellent Buzz Me Blues, one of my favourites (in fact it was one of the blues I played and sang last weekend at The Crown in Horwich). Other numbers of note were a very good I Put A Spell On You and Mustang Sally, an impromptu rendering due largely to the influx of some twenty or more women out on a hen night. Two of them sang well and provided the backing vocals on Mustang Sally. By then the place was jumping.

The Bourbon Street Preachers lineup included keyboards, drums, bass, guitar and vocals/harp/squeezebox. At times, this approached a decent Cajun sound. I had the impression that the gig was going from strength to strength as I left for another appointment. You could call these mature players but they laid down a good blues beat and some tasty solos on harp, guitar and keyboards, just the tonic needed with our ridiculous weather.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Write Out Loud Poetry at Middleton 24th June 2007






From the top: poets Gemma O'Neill, Greg Rodrigo, Gordon Zola and Carol Pickering.

A warm welcome was given to some newcomers at this WOL event . We all hope that they will read next time. Only about 20 people this time, but quality work was performed. After MC Paul Gonzo Blackburn’s introduction, the first session started as Dave Morgan read ‘Promotion’ a witty rhymer about getting on and being ‘a complete and utter bastard’. Then Greg Rodrigo did his ‘London’ an interesting view of the impersonality of the southern capital. Gonzo delivered his ‘Economic Refugee’ where as usual he asks people for money.

Katie Haigh then read us her ‘Searching’, a thoughtful piece. Norman Warwick’s ‘The Cost Of Gold’ looked at funding for the Arts going down the drain while the Olympics gets everything. but who will ‘paint their portraits, tell their story’?

Carol Pickering’s sociopolitical piece ‘Reflections On Life’ looked at different individuals who cannot be made to write. Gerry O’Gorman’s ‘Engerland Expects’ dealt in nice juxtapositions: ‘there’s carnations round the lamp post and there’s holes in the road’. Then Mr G Zola performed his ‘Food Of Love’. This was excellent, typical, Cheese at his best. Seamus Kelly’s first telling, witty piece was called ‘Flash’. Gemma O’Neill read her ‘When I was Five’ a very good local accent piece that I’ve heard before. I read ‘The Keeper of Turton Tower’.

After the first break, we read in reverse order, so I started with one called ‘Leon’, then Paul did something which may have been called the Best Poem or it might have been his Intro Poem – sorry I missed the title. Gemma did her ‘Location, Location, Location’, good, competent stuff: ‘Everyone knows my street’. Amongst others ‘a middle-aged mini-skirted lush’ lives there.

Seamus read ‘Only In My Dreams’, a very good, powerful piece about habitat destruction in Western Ireland:’unnatural lines of unnatural trees’. Then Mr Z did his ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ ‘Not even Coldplay could fix you’. Gerry read ‘The Regal’ about past times at the cinema:’a panavision treat’. Carol did her ‘Lost Love’, a formal piece, (possibly a pantoum?) . I liked ‘in my Icarus fantasy I flew’. Norman gave us a chilling tale about a preacher who puts fornicators to the sword. I don’t know if it was deliberate but there was a distinct reference to Dante’s Paolo and Francesca for me in the line ‘He saw two souls that took to flight’. Katie’s ‘Awake’ struck a chord with her fellow insomniac poets: ‘Will I ever escape the madness, the chaos awake.’

Greg then gave us his political piece about Tony Blair’s smile which went down well. Dave finished the second session with his ‘Arrested Poetry’ a useful snipe at the ether-breathing upthemselves who cast nasturtiums at those of us who don’t write arcane, twisted-imaged, uppity bollocks: ‘doing time for committing rhyme is the doggerel poet’s fate’. The final session was a random one where Gonzo stuck a pen in the list to choose who read next. Briefly, because this is already a long review, Gerry: ‘I’m the joiner. When I’ve finished, it works, it’s fixed’. Danny Sleddon’s (hope the name’s right) ‘Slow To Go’ was also read by Gerry. We hope Danny will write more good poems and read them next time. Katie’s ‘Musicbox’ personified beautifully the little ballerina model in the box. Seamus gave us an excellent ‘Just Too Much’ with a killer last line.

Greg talked of war: ‘I am in the middle of reality’. Dave delivered an irreverent, punful ‘David Attenborough’s Deep Blue Sea’. Gemma read a piece about the leader of her gang ‘All she ever got at home was a Dad who was drunk’. Greg did more of his engaged approach to the world.

Mr Z then became Terry Dactyl in a plea for dinosaur equality. Loads of puns and dino jokes. I did my ‘Fast Crowd’ about locals in rough pubs. Norman finished the evening with a love poem called ‘This Is The One’ which really hit home: the safest road running south out of hope and north out of fear’.

My apologies if any of the names or quotes are wrong. This joined-up writing takes time. This was the first time I had heard some of these poets and they were as competent as any. As some of the newbies commented to me, there was a really good range of styles and deliveries. Middleton is not an event to be missed, people. My favourite of the night was Norman’s last one but there were many others that came close.

Artists at The Crown, Horwich Sunday 24th June 2007





From the top: Rachel Appleton Band, John Cleys, Sandra Cleys, members of Write Out loud including the famous Gonzo attempting to read the smudged notes on his hand.
24th June saw an extra Riders event at the Crown in Horwich. It was to have been in the beer garden (car park) but the weather forced us inside. This was an interesting gig as it coincided with Horwich Carnival, bike races, Morris Men, various drunken groups and all sorts of other attractions. Horwich was actually hermetically sealed for the day with only the more intrepid motorists getting anywhere.

Things eventually got underway when a tardy Gonzo poet surfaced and MC’d the occasion. After Paul’s inimitable ‘Intro Poem’, I was shoved on first, kicking and screaming, to play a few instrumentals and blues for 20 minutes. Then the magical Gordon Zola did a great stint including ‘The Mating Game’, ‘Folk song’, ‘Blackpool Rock’ and ‘Sweet Rapper’. All these went down very well with a loud, fluid ever-changing crowd.

Then the star of the gig, Rachel Appleton did her first set with her band. I’d heard these before but they were still great songs with that lilting, haunting voice of hers. She too seemed a little perplexed by the odd nature of this carnival gig but her stuff was very well received.

After the break, Paul read his ‘Economic Refugee’ then I did an old blues and two of my own songs, ‘Flustered’ and ‘She Knows’. Even Paul seemed to like ‘Flustered’, so now I know. Dave Morgan regaled us with his Hovis poem, one about daffodils, another about Harry San, a Green Party manifesto, the Shulpa Shetti joke and his anti-corporate masterpiece. All went down very well.

Gordonzola did his ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ then and Sandra Cleys had the audience in fits of laughter with her poems which range from an ode to dogpoo, Marlene Dietrich style to her excellent piece on being in your pocket. John Cleys proved his stamina and tenacity in the face of a rather chatty audience by rattling off a litany of works without pause for breath. Go , John, go!

Rachel’s second set was all new stuff which I really enjoyed. ‘Blackwood’, an A minor job, was excellent: ‘a year of isolation / summer’s stretching on’. ‘Let Good Things Grow’ was a D key droner which I would have preferred with some sort of middle eight but still very competent. Then ‘Here in the water’ in E and ‘Hideaway’ which was really good: ‘nobody’s gonna teach the kids about the sticks and stones’. The best new number which concluded the set was ‘Forever Long’ , an F modal job with some very interesting changes and some mint lines such as ‘Put all your tranquil vibes around me’. Rachel has a good sound going on here and the addition of percussion this time certainly lifted things.

I presume this was a one-off gig, but it did show that the artists concerned are well-received by the general public, not just the aficionados and no one was booed, bottled or heckled. Well done to all performers.

Withering Wakefield Saturday 23rd June 2007

On Saturday three of us went to Wakefield Theatre Royal. I love our provincial theatres. The foyer and bar at the Wakefield were pretty original and painted in a wonderful, sleazy green. The main auditorium had what appeared to be a cleaned or retouched ceiling and as much plasterwork and gilt cornice as anyone would want. A delightful little venue.

Our trip was to see ‘Withering Looks’ starring Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding who together with their team make up the Manchester-based Lipservice theatre company. This was superb performance. Both actors have an exceptional ability to interact with the audience. Maggie Fox combines the best of Joyce Grenfell and Frances de Latour, and Sue Ryding is equally adept at contorted expressions. As a duo they have that effortless timing and understanding which only few achieve.

‘Withering Looks’, now in its 22nd year has lost none of its appeal, being as witty and entertaining a tour of the Bronte sisters as ever. However, it is only one in a series of comedies that Lipservice has produced and fans will be looking forward to the forthcoming ‘Live and Let’s Dye’ (with Jane Bond) which starts its tour this autumn.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trash Press

Today I found myself in a waiting area with only trash to read. On page 26 of the horrendous Daily Mail the headline reads ‘The British workers denied jobs because they can’t speak Polish’. This extremely badly written piece of tripe by Andy Dolan refers to a comment by a Tory MP Malcom Ross at a parliamentary committee session last week: ‘A woman came into my surgery and told me about her daughter’s experience when she was looking for work’.

Not only did this happen (allegedly) over a year ago, but the MP rather conveniently did not have any details e.g. the date, the woman’s mother’s name, the factory involved. It’s a bit like the Martian I saw yesterday in Morrison’s. I can’t quite remember his name but I distinctly remember him telling me that David Cameron was God. So it must be true.

Note how the Mail reporter extrapolates this single apocryphal statement into a headline implying that more than one person, fictitious or not, (‘workers’) was involved. Of course, a truthful headline such as ‘Tory MP alleges that one girl’s mother told him a story about a year ago but has nothing to substantiate the tale’ won’t sell trash.


Just in case I thought Andy Dolan to be an exception, today’s Daily Express carries yet more evidence of our garbage problem. Patrick O’Flynn (Chief Political Reporter) refers to the ‘tidal wave of humanity which has flowed here from Eastern Europe’ and to ‘importing two million extra people into Britain’. Even the Mail’s exaggerated figures can only come up with 800,000 which we are told ‘some experts’ have quoted – i.e. the racist far right Migrationwatch or maybe the one-cells from the BNP. But O’Flynn’s finest line refers to his abomination of ‘the liberal metropolitan types who dominate politics and the media’. Ah, if only they did!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Il gastronomo




He’ll be hovering over them, gazing into those
Tuscan cauldrons by now. No mere affairs of the mouth,
these, more slicing time with the gods
at the altar of the garlic-dressed bean.

A flourish of fennel, a dash of James Baldwin,
a kiss of balsamic, a twist of life,
patience cajoling magic deadly deep
within the eighth liberal art.

A week later he flies home, leaving behind
a seasoned wedge of his soul. In Cleveland,
Chianti sales triple as they queue for him,
for his mouthfuls of heaven.
(Firenze, giugno 2007)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Une femme des plus remarquables

Là où les oiseaux
chantent l’heure, et ailleurs
sous un ciel moins vaste;
partout où l’on connaît la joie.
Sache-le bien:
tout le monde pense à toi.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mirrorball, Zacc Rogers at The Thirsty Scholar 16th May 2007

This was a ‘Shambles Night’ with Eddy on the desk, four acousticky acts and two bands.

First up was a duo, John Lowndes and Daniel Clarke. Some promise here but one song was a waste of sound as they both played identical chords throughout. The others were better in that respect. Vocals could improve a little and an investment in new strings on the non-ovation type guitar would be good.

Second was Rondas. Slightly better on quality in both voice and tuning. Rhythmically very good. A bossa impressed me.

Third was the very popular Zacc Rogers. He started with a driving harp and guitar number that stopped the bar in its tracks. Awesome. We were then treated to some fast flatpicking in open D which clearly impressed the crowd. Zacc’s versatility showed in his switching to an open G tuned second guitar for some outstanding slide work. Not only can he do all this but he’s also into jazz. It’s good to see competent playing when there’s so much naff strumming and powerchording around. For the inevitable encore Zacc did a lovely gospel number, possibly called ‘Show me the light’.

Act 4, Andrew Deighton was apparently supposed to have a band with him but they didn’t show. Maybe unfair to judge him just on the solo performance, but if you get up there you must expect some comment and here the guitar was desperately out and the songs ended sort of nowhere.

The first of the two bands, Mirrorball, then played an excellent set. Talking to the other musicians present, it was clear that this is a highly respected outfit whose indie psychedelic big guitar sound has its own very distinctive route. I liked all of their stuff and in particular ‘I Am The Song’ and ‘Heavy Lemon’. You can hear these and other tracks on their myspace site (mirrorballfc). As with Zacc Rogers, there is no substitute for professionalism and musical ability which they had in abundance, turning dissonances around and throwing aural surprises at a delighted audience.

I didn’t see enough of the last band, Carbon Kinetic to do them justice. The opening number pointed up the odd sound problem, as is often the case – the bass was inaudible and the other guitars needed someone on the desk. However, in better ‘weather’ I think they would impress.

A great night with Zacc and Mirrorball totally mint.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dear Anonymous

Thank you very much for your comment about the poem. I can see how the ending might seem trite. I was trying to convey the fact that some ‘friends’ treated the situation as out of sight out of mind and also that we lead (and maybe waste) our humdrum existences without much reflexion on the fact that we are able-bodied.
I will consider an alternative ending. Thank you again for your kind and constructive remarks.

James

Monday, May 14, 2007

Poetry Night at The White Hart, Oldham Sun 13th May

An interesting mix of poetry on a very wet night.

Cayn White did three – one about chat shows and two about burgers – the first of these a mugging by a burger king and the second about the human contents of certain burgers. All three raised a laugh from the audience.
Harry Ogden did one called ‘Battlesong’ about ‘nations everywhere in tune with perfect harmony’ and some rhymes which he said were excruciatingly bad, though I’ve heard worse; another called ’Sunami’ – ‘it’s now a word we can’t forget’; also ‘A Walk in the Cemetery’ about friends who’ve died.
Carolina de la Cruz did two cathartic pieces: ‘Past, Present, Future’ about physical abuse which I’d heard before but still had impact, and ‘The White Lady’ about drug abuse. Both very powerful pieces.
Paul Broadhurst gave us ‘Election Near’, another about the environment and one about a stag do. Paul sells collections of his poems in aid of a local hospice, a very worthy cause.
Gregorio Rodrigo, a new face, read one on war – ‘this is a soul which is overflowing’ and another about English politics and Tony Blair’s smile. I hope we may hear some of his poems in Spanish in the future.
Paul Blackburn, the Poetry King, treated us to his shuffle poem ‘Dawn Walk Through Misty Moonlight’, ‘Change’ and ‘Joy’. All well received.
Melanie Ross read two – the first an erotic fruit market piece and the second an absolutely outstanding piece about the poet looking for inspiration called ‘Little Monsters’ I think.
I read ‘The David Miles Exhibition’, ‘Met’, ‘The Joy of Shopping’ and ‘Doty’s Mackerel’.
Tony Ryan read his well received poem about an MS sufferer ‘being in awe of courage so rare’ and the pensive ‘Dark Waters’ – ‘I was the plopped pebble whose ripples folded…’
Gordon Zola unleashed an entertaining standup routine about nursery rhyme characters and, for a change a song/poem ‘The Troubadour’s Lament’ which went down well.
Dave Morgan gave us two excellent efforts, one about football and the other a homage to Jack Kerouac.
Scott Devon did a splice of two poems about being high on poet-ry and also recited part of a Simon Armitage poem ‘Out of the Blue’ which was enjoyed. Julian did an anniversary elegy to his late father ‘go, proud Polish pilot, fly…’
and the lovely ‘If I could write like Neruda’ where we were told ‘forgetting is long / but love is eternal.’ He also finished his compering of the evening with his witty ode to the Rhubarb Triangle.

Maybe at times a little more serious or somber than usual tonight (I blame the rain) but still very enjoyable and the best poems were extremely good.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last week





Last week I saw Terre Haute, a play about an imaginary meeting between Gore Vidal and Timothy McVey; saw The Lives of Others, a German subtitled film about the Stasi; visited the David Miles Exhibition at The Lowri (see previous entry); I recited some poetry in Wigan; and went to an acoustic evening at The Howcroft in Bolton. Quite a mixed week. Here are some of the players from The Howcroft: Stewart Warburton, Ron Callow, The Rev Mick and Dennis Dodds.

The David Miles Exhibition

He says he has to fill more sketchbooks, these retro
diaries of his mind. Within the mobiles (are there 300?)


I hear the faint buzz of silhouette interaction, I sense him
at work, suspending these fleeting, imaginary folk

reduced to pure line, I feel them through their day.
They move, they cast their shadows. Melancholy slides

into the changing gaps between them. I’ve seen
this crowd before on the slope of the Arndale,

waiting for trams outside the Arena, checking in
at Terminal 2. Lowri’s people. David catches contours,

dines on dimension. He outlines these lives, contains
their presence in this cream-walled Salford space

too briefly. He’ll have to let them go home soon.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Scream of consciousness


















the fashionista turns to beige
the S & M-er locks his cage
the herbalist consults her sage
the plagiarist insults his page

the atheist stands centre stage
the eagle swoops and screams in rage
the green can’t live without his gauge
and zeitgeist quickly comes of age

the seer sees but wants to suck it
the pessimist still needs his bucket
and every Nan must have her tucket
with the Union Gap and Gary Puckett

a million pound bonus in the city
three streets away kids plead for pity
the gangsta thinks he’s cool and witty
but the exit wounds are none too pretty

the pendolino leaves the track
while babies cry from crack and smack
the fascist flies his union jack
a death a minute in Iraq

Da Vinci stirs and checks his code
the warriors love their wars and woad
the rucksack hides its hideous load
when will the next red bus explode

another day of hows and whys
another big mac coke and fries
it’s gimmee gimmee oil and lies
and gods and lies and men and lies

the fashionista turns to grey
the S & M-er gasps all day
the herbalist drowns in the bay
the eagle seeks a different prey

Padparadscha


Wallace’s hands are trembling as his loupe surveys the stone,
as the old man sits before him, all parchment-skinned and bone.
Wallace’s pulse is pounding, as the peach-pink jewel gleams.
Could it be a Padparadscha, the stuff of sultans’ dreams?

The old man says ‘The setting’s worn but I think the stone is fine;
it’s been in the same family since 1789.’
As Wallace checks the massive gem, his head is in state:
the Chelsea filter says it’s real, the growth lines run dead straight.

Now, even at the bottom price, he ought to pay the earth
but he wonders can this old man know what a Padparadscha’s worth?
‘I bet he hasn’t the foggiest,’ says Wallace to himself,
as he takes his pen and notebook from the hidden counter shelf.

‘Pink sapphire’s very nice’ he says ‘But there’s so little demand
and even at this size we’re only talking… twenty grand.’
The old man’s lip is trembling now, he looks down at the floor.
‘Are you quite sure? Is that price is right? I had hoped for much more’.

‘Take it or leave it,’ Wallace says ‘I can’t pay more than that.’
‘All right,’ concedes the old man, ‘But there’s just one caveat.
I don’t have faith in cheques or banks or stock markets that crash:
If I pop back in tomorrow can you pay me then in cash?’

‘Of course!’ says Wallace, rubbing his hands, and bids the old chap well.
That night he dreams of sultans, of the tales he’ll have to tell,
of how he made a killing, retired on one last deal:
a genuine Padparadscha, and at this price, a steal.

Next day the old man’s back at noon, and soon the deal is done
and Wallace shuts up early and strolls home in the sun.
His future couldn’t be rosier, the sapphire’s in the vault;
that night he reads his paper, breaks out the single malt.

But as he turns to the business page, he starts to fall apart.
The news he reads is like a dagger in his sultan heart:
Chatham in America and Seiko in Japan
Have synthesised new sapphires: Padparadschas made by man.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Slamming

The Wigan Words 07 Slam involved some 14 slammers, 5 judges and an appreciative audience. Compere Julian Jordon spread his usual bonhomie over the proceedings.
First up was Hilary Walker with a very humorous and well recited piece about Reality TV and the cult of the C list celebrity. This deserved a higher score than it got, but that’s a problem at every slam – the early contestants get lower scores than they should. This was followed by Dan Robinson’s ‘Chalet Love’ a visceral piece on holiday bonking which seemed to be littered with swear words but these were all relevant to the subject matter rather than gratuitous (as so much slammers’ swearing is).
Dave Morgan read his ‘Farewell to the Jungle’ a narrative poem at once poignant, allegorical and humorous. This was followed by a piece by Degsy Jones about absolution. Not his best work, I felt. it seemed cliché-ridden and imageless to me. Martin Higgins’ poem about having the perfect home was competent: it had good rhythm and musicality and the killer last line: ‘Grief dulls this Ikea gloss.’ Gordon Zola recited a rappy work about classical composers that not only had excellent rhyme and rhythm but also involved the audience and went down really well.
Musician and student Shaun Fallows gave us ‘My Hands’. Some nice internal rhyme in this but I think it needs development. As it was it was too short for a slam. Scott Devon recited his ‘Three Nights’: rappy, staccato, with Ionescoan degeneration of language into mere sounds, judicious repetition and varied pace. Well liked by the audience and judges.
Then Peter Crompton took the place apart with his ‘Sex sells’. This had lovely rhymes, beautiful alliteration, humour, varied pace and machine gun, clinical delivery. It was good to hear a true poet at work. A wonderful performance that demonstrated no less than sonic mastery of language. Outstanding.
Baz followed with a poem about creatures that get eaten. Whilst it was witty (‘all you need to do is very quickly evolve’) the scansion and rhymes were not maybe as good as the humour. Lindsay Ashton’s piece again was humorous and had a fair rhythm but needed more work on scansion and some different rhymes. Louise Stoddart gave us ‘Kinky’ and ‘City’. The first was short and sweet, the second a bit listy for me though not without wit and charm.
John Cleys squeezed in ‘Turn Me On: A recipe for Love’,an epitaph, ‘Drive Me Like A Fire Engine’, and ‘Temptation in the garden’. His usual competent,witty verse and, I should add, for me a greatly improved delivery. Monologue Joe was last to perform with a song ‘Jesus has come to Wigan’, a thoroughly enjoyable, irreverent piece about the local delicacy (pies).

After the scores were added up, first was Peter Crompton, second Gordon Zola and third Scott Devon. Peter now has the opportunity to compete in the regional finals organised by Apples and Snakes.
It is worth noting that all contestants scored and performed well, especially the first-timers. Thanks to Gillian Forester for putting on this event. My apologies to anyone whose name is spelt wrongly. These are my own views and do not necessarily reflect what others felt about the performances.

Some of my own thoughts about slams are these: performance poetry is not the same as text-based poetry and often the transition from page to stage doesn’t work. I would like to see more recital and less reading, more poems written with performance in mind rather than a poet just picking something to read out of a sheaf of latest works. Speaking and listening (and performing) are active, immediate skills; reading and writing are reflective skills. What might be a great line when I’ve got time to chew it over by re-reading may not work at all when I can only hear it once.
Rhythm, musicality and aural fireworks sometimes but not always characterise the best slam poetry. Those whose slam poems use rhyme need to be just as good at metre and scansion as the best of the text-based rhymers. Too often, an otherwise good idea is ruined by lazy rhyme or clunkingly unmetrical phrasing and some slammers would do well to listen more actively to the likes of Tony Walsh or Peter Crompton. The non-rhymers have it easier in a way, though they need to work harder if anything on aural flow.
What to do about the early performers getting unjustly low scores? It might help if there was a longer open mic session (Julian and Paul did one brief warm-up where the judges scored) of brief acts where the judges scored at least six before the main event. In an ideal world, judges would agree on their criteria in advance and not judge text-based poems as highly as performed ones, if that makes sense.
Finally, I see no sense in having five judges and only using the three middle scores. It means that any judge who votes highest or lowest at any time might as well not be there. Maybe a mathematician can enlighten me.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Visiting Raymond

As I queue again at the end of the M67
where the traffic never sleeps,
crawl down to Glossop
then across the top of the world,
I’m thinking, what do I say this time?

As the road angel on the dash flashes red,
chirps out its electronic warnings to me
my mind tunnels deep
beyond the black and the brakelights,
I’m thinking, what do I say this time?

As I roll down the bends from Buxton
to Chatsworth, ninety miles behind me,
everyone else going home this Friday night,
or queueing in their chippy,
or buying their lottery tickets,
or getting a few cans in,
I’m thinking, what don’t I say this time?

Just after he was flown home
I first drove the drive, the nurse said
‘you’d better say goodbye, don’t get many as bad as this,’
but that time I didn’t have to say anything:
he couldn’t hear me anyway.

Now, months later, he hears, he talks. Well,
a version of him talks, like a circuit
that keeps shorting out as he switches
and flips in butterfly conversation
that trails off into sleep.

The good leg stretches out,
the good arm wraps itself around him
and the good eye closes.
I pat the blanket.

And as he sleeps
I siphon off from the decades,
from school to now,
the best of times where
we’ve talked, drunk, played cards,
fished, loved our women,
where nothing could change the way we were.

And as he sleeps
I recount the litany of codewords and gestures,
the bridge bids of a relationship
I smell the superglue that welds us
I see how we enjoyed our difference down the years.

And as he sleeps
my headlights slice back
through this High Peak dark,
the guys on their mobiles all ask
how it went this time and between us
we agree: that’s what I’ll say next time,
that’s what I won’t mention next time.

And as he sleeps
we all go back to our chips
and our lottery and our cans
and these undisabled lives of ours.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Billy Boast & The Loose-Eyed Lady: A Panegyric To The Post-Avant.

At the South Coast hog roast Billy Boast nearly toast
overdosed on glasnost saw his ghost past the post
last post lamp post bed post evening post
evening all waterfall basketball chainsaw

from the Albert Halls to Arkansas
done it all know it all
walktall bigsmall
freefall at the paintball
veg stall curved ball up against the Wailing Wall
better give his Mum a call no more jobs at Vauxhall
nothing on the eight ball pockets full of bugger all

he’s getting over it
wait a bit
lowered kit
halfwit
double knit armpit faglit unfit
look at her working it looking fit dress slit:
‘Take me to your bedsit? Biscuit? Risk it? Rarebit? Pomfrit?
Twiglet? Niblet? Titbit? Wotsit? Wiggle it a little bit?’

Well she’s a pronoun
on the town
an up and down
green pound
a bodyhound lost and found nightly crowned queen of sound
home fore he can turn around drinks downed hands bound
half an hour of hare and hound helps herself to folding brown

Well he couldn’t unwind it was a real bind
he felt undermined and columbined
redefined red-lined Rick Steined Patsy Klined
woodbined colourblind never mind the bacon rind
porcupined grapevined bottom lined and much maligned.

Well he was mystified
mortified
multiplied
stultified
red-eyed pork-pied legs wide crucified
panfried setaside powerglide penicide
disapplied undenied tightly tied and offside.