Well, we really are running out of time now, aren't we? I have one more visit to Bilston Voices as an audience member to come (and of course one to City Voices) and then that's it. I'll be gone, on my way to China. That's why I was so pleased to be able to appear last night as a performer.
I had the slot before the break but before we got to me we had two other poets to listen two and they were quite a treat.
Kurly McGeachie who opened the proceedings had a friendly, bouncy open style and an unusual fondness for peppering his poetry with sound effects - everything from vacuum cleaners to hand grenades. He opened with a short poem about Smiles and followed this with a much longer and more complicated piece called Home. Both were excellent. Whenever I hear poets perform long, complex pieces with this level of skill I am simply awestruck by the talent it takes. I have enough trouble remembering my own relatively straightforward, much shorter pieces. Kurlie rounded out with a love poem - You Are Beautiful and finished with a piece called Words that was more like rhythmic prose and very good indeed.
Kurlie was followed by Maurice Arnold, on older - and very different - performer. His poems were mostly short and quite humourous - ranging from Beer Festivals to being born in Dudley - with a couple of more serious ones included for variety. The poems were very good, especially the final one, I Was Born In Dudley Town, but there was a slight problem with the delivery. He tended to go rather too fast and to run the ending of one poem into the introduction to the next with neither a pause nor a change of voice tone so that by the time the audience realised the poem was over he was through the introduction and rattling into the next one. He would benefit greatly from slowing down and reducing the number of poems in his set.
Then it was my turn. Since I decided about a year ago to recite rather than read it has become my preferred method of performance. I enjoy it much more because I can connect more with the audience and be more expressive in the delivery. I had decided to do a set of entirely autobiographical material and I had rehearsed a lot to get it down pat. It seemed to go very well indeed. There was laughter where there is supposed to be laughter, sighs where I expected sighs, choruses of appropriate oohs and ahs. I came off feeling really good about it.
After the break we had another change of performance style and material with Mark Reece. He gave us a long extract from an unpublished novel in the form of a rather puzzling extract about a mortgage salesman trying to con a weird old lady. It had its moments but on the whole I found it unconvincing. The situation seemed unlikely and the detail under-researched. Though the dialogue sounded quite authentic the piece was also far to long for the slightness of the material.
The evening was rounded out by Simon Fletcher who announced at the start that he was going to give us "fifteen minutes of flowers, birds, butterflies and stuff like that" and that's precisely what he delivered - a selection of pastoral poems that were very descriptive of the countryside that Simon clearly loves. His measured delivery suits the material perfectly and he writes in a gentle and literate style but his poems always seem to me to be the kind that reward a reader much more than a listener. All the same it was a polished performance to round off another fine evening.
One more to go and that's it. I really am going to miss Bilston Voices.