I'm back in the UK for the Summer and determined to get to (not to mention perform at) as many poetry events as I can before returning to China. So I visited Poetry Bites at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in King's heath on Tuesday and Bilston Voices on Thursday. At Poetry Bites Jane Seabourne and Nick Pearson provided their usual solid performances ably supported by more excellent open mike readings than I could count, let alone comment on. It's a perfect venue and it was a great night but it was Bilston Voices that I was really looking forward to, as I used to try to attend every month before I left for foreign shores.
I had originally intended only to watch as my own booking there is next month but an eleventh hour telephone call informed me that my old writing group - Scribblers were being recorded for a CD and they wanted me to do something for it.
The recording that they were making is a CD of the combined talents of Bilston Writers and Scribblers and much of it had been recorded last month. The remaining poets were to perform for the microphone on Thursday.
They kicked off with the remaining two Bilston Writers poets - Carol Howarth and Marion Cockin. Carol's great strength is her voice which perfectly matches the descriptive quality of her work - whether she is reading a lyrical account of a visit to a butterfly reserve or an amusing piece about a sheepdog's retirement party. Marion followed with an accomplished group of poems including her popular piece about Walter Raleigh's head being kept by his wife after his death.
Then it was the turn of Scribblers with readings from five of us. Andy Moreton kicked off with four poems - two of them in his customary humourous style and two somewhat darker and more serious pieces. All four were very good though the tale of Nigel the moth has always been one of my favourites. Jill Tromans gave us a change of pace with a story rather than a poem - a tale of ghostly apparition in a pub which was chock full of her trademark humour and had the whole audience chuckling along. Another tale followed, this time from Neil Howard punning on the concept of Metro-Gnomes. he rounded out his set with a short descriptive piece about a badger before handing over to Silvia Millward. Silvia's great trick is to write poems that while firmly rooted in Bilston's industrial heritage manage to be both moving and lyrical. Then it was over to me to do a brand new piece on it's first time out - "Nothing" - a list poem about birthday presents for a father who always tells people not to buy him birthday presents.
The CD will, I am told, be available in September.
The second half of the bill was back to the normal format. No recording and three longer sets. Madge Gilbey opened with her Black Country dialect poetry. I confess that I am not a great lover of the form but Madge pulls it off smoothly, in part due to her accent always sounding natural and never forced but, mostly, because the poems are witty enough and strong enough to stand on their own merits.
Next up was Al Barz who cut a strange figure - an older, bearded chap who began his set by setting up an electronic keyboard to accompany his recitations with digital sound loops and rhythms. It was a format that worked well, lending an unusual quality to his strong humourous verses. I was particularly taken with "With This Ring" the tale of a serial philanderer. His entertaining set would have been the highlight of the night had he not been followed by John Edgar with a brace of well crafted and wonderfully told shaggy dog stories - about a struggling actor and a good man who fails, on a technicality, to get into heaven. he threw himself into a dramatic performance with such vigour that it was hard not to get carried away by it all. he was the perfect choice to end another great evening at Bilston Voices. I've been away for a year but it's lost none of it's quality. I shall be back next month and then, sadly, gone again. I shall miss it.
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