Well, I finally made it to the top of the bill at City Voices and all I had to do to get there was promise to leave the country. I can't really review myself so I'll restrict this to the other four performers from last night at City Voices.
It started with Susan Fearn who warned us before she started that she liked experimental poetry. Now the term "experimental poetry" means different things to different people. It can encompass experimental techniques of creation, experimental verse forms, experimental use of language, experimental topics. Almost anything. In Susan's case her introduction made it clear that she uses experimental creation techniques - making links between randomly chosen postcards for example - and the poems themselves demonstrated the use of language and verse forms. So, was it any good? Well yes and no. Many years ago I saw a concert by Phil Collins side-project Brand-X. It was all technically well done but at the end of the evening I couldn't say if they had played eight ten minute songs or one eighty minute song. I felt more or less the same way about Susan's performance. She announced the title of each poem and told us little about it. Even so I found that I was listening to the words with very little understanding of their meanings. There were a couple of more traditional pieces but on the whole experimental poetry isn't really to my taste.
Nick Pearson followed with rather more traditional fare which, consequently, I enjoyed more. Whether he is talking about how towns have changed during his lifetime, television talent shows or memories of his step-mother his poems are sharp and perceptive and often both funny and painful at the same time. Aided by his confident delivery he gave us a very pleasing and entertaining set.
The first half was rounded out by Hazel Malcolm who gave us two long prose pieces rather than poetry. The first was a reminiscence from her childhood about people visiting her mother who was acting as a banker in an informal financial club. She painted the picture authentically and confidently. The second piece was about hairdressing, not a topic that I am greatly enthused about, but the same comments applied. Her great skill is in drawing the listener into an unfamiliar world in a convincing way.
The second half started with Iris Rhodes whose poems were mostly about strong women, real and mythical: Ariadne, Cleopatra, Boudicca. The poems were assuredly structured and well-delivered and, though I personally prefer descriptive poetry to narrative poetry, well-received. When she moved away from the strong women theme she nevertheless continued in a feminist vein for most of the set which demonstrated her undoubted ability. The only real problem was in the length of her introductions which were often much longer than the poems themselves. Shorter introductions and more poetry would have made the set even better.
And of course the final performer was me. For obvious reasons I can't review it but, for the record, I read two extracts from my book about travels in North And South America and two poems: Bangkok Hustle and Sunset On The African Plains.
As a short postscript, I will be at the May City Voices where Scribblers are launching a new anthology and I should be able to attend, though not perform at the June one but after that City Voices and I will be, at least for the time being, parting company as I go to work away for a couple of years. As it usually clashes with Scribblers I probably won't be able to find a substitute guest reviewer but if anyone wants to provide guest reviews for this blog, please contact me.