Monday night's Nine Arches Press/Crystal Clear Creators Shindig was as good as any reading/open mic I've been to - I'd wondered whether the ongoing deluge and the Leicester holiday fortnight might make keep people away this time, but in fact the Western was packed out.
A great bill helped, obviously. I'm not going to attempt to review the night properly, but Alan Baker, Maria Taylor and Robin Vaughan-Williams are all poets whose work I've known and enjoyed for some time now, and all three gave fine readings, as ever. You can read much more about them here and here.
Kim Moore was a new name to me, though, and closed the night with a really fine set (she was down from Barrow-in-Furness, but has family in Leicester, I think). I bought her Smith/Doorstop pamphlet - If We Could Speak Like Wolves - on the strength of it, and it more than does her justice. I loved her opening poem, The Wolf, in particular, not least because of her declaration that she reads it because she doesn't know what it means. That enquiring sense is there throughout the book.
The open mic slots seem to get better with each reading, and it was nice to see more and more West Midlands poets coming to give it a try. Gary Carr's second poem, a letter to his daughter, was a real highlight for me, Gary Longden, Deborah Tyler-Bennett and Jayne Stanton were as good as always, and Graham Norman and Maria Rooner performed the same poem in English, then German, to good effect. Considering I managed to fail O Level German three times (don't ask), I surprised myself by how much I actually followed when Maria was reading.
Talking to Alan and Robin afterwards, we were trying to work out what makes the Shindigs work so well (aside from the poets, obviously). The size and shape of the room certainly helps, as does the fact that there's always been a nice, relaxed feel at the Western - people wander in from the street or the other bar and dip in and out of the poetry, which you don't get at many places. And last but certainly not least, the laid-back, resolutely uncompetitive atmosphere cultivated by Jane and Matt of Nine Arches and Jonathan Taylor of CCC, makes all the difference.