Yesterday was International Women's Day and so it was entirely fitting that City Voices presented us with an all woman line of entertainment. It was a brilliantly well-thought-out selection too, featuring artists of Canadian, German, Indian and West Indian origin. And one from Wednesbury.
We started with Carol Howarth whose long introduction led into a story and a number of nicely observed poems. The story was a vignette about a girl smoking in front of her parents for the first time and drew a sharp picture of the different public and private relationships within families. Her poems too were mostly observational word-pictures including poems about childhood, Guy Lombardo, Linda McCartney and limestone kilns in an eclectic selection. What really sold them for me though was the delivery. Told quietly and confidently in a Canadian accent they were expressive and thoughtful.
Yvette Rose followed with a West Indian slant to her poems which were mostly about childhood and her grandmother but also included included some love poetry and a descriptive piece about Barbados. While the style was a little too sentimental for my own taste it was well-received by the packed audience and a very good example of the style.
The first half was finished off by Ruth Parker who moved to England from Germany many years ago in her teens. She gave a slightly tongue-in-cheek apology to the men in the audience before delivering a set of largely feminist poems, often about the burdens of being a woman - though Heroes was rather more equal ops in that it criticised not just the heroic tradition of Wellington or Alexander but also Boadicea and Joan of Arc before suggesting rather more pacifist substitutes. There was also a good poem about the Chilean miners and a couple that she had chosen written by others. As with Yvette and Carol it was a very good set.
After the break we started with Raj Lal who told us that her first person narrative was not autobiographical but it was, nevertheless, convincingly rooted in her own life experiences. It was a vivid description of the drudgery of being the oldest teenage sister and having to balance school life with home life when looking after younger siblings is involved. It included my favourite line of the evening, "Mom always left the dishes unwashed to prove my laziness."
Marion Cockin was up last with a very balanced set that was probably the best I have seen her perform. Opening with a couple of travel poems - Havana Balcony being especially striking - she moved smoothly through an excellent performance that included poems about Christina Rossetti, a weekend at home, childhood holidays and sparrows in Wednesbury. All of the poems were sharply written and well-delivered and she provided a fine end to the evening's line-up.
So, overall, another fine evening and one that couldn't have been better chosen for International Women's Week.