Tuesday, 18 June 2013

An evening at Wordsmiths & Co

Yesterday, I tackled the A14 and the snarled-up Coventry ring road to get to Warwick Arts Centre. Gig-goers among you will know that it sits on the campus of Warwick University, and that the campus is actually nearer Coventry.

I've got a lot of fond memories of it because of some great gigs I've seen there. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the last time I was in the small theatre I was in last night, it was to see Julian Cope, which is always an experience.

This time, though, it was for the last of this season's Wordsmiths & Co shows, run by Nine Arches Press and Apples & Snakes. I'm hugely grateful to regular host Jo Bell for inviting me to join a line-up of Lorna Meehan, David Morley, and Luke Wright. To read with names like those would be a privilege and a pleasure anyway, but it's the format of the shows that really makes things special. Each poet does a short reading, and is then interviewed by Jo, turning it into a poetry talkshow.

Lorna read first - she's a classically trained actress, and uses her voice superbly. There's a lot of energy in her performance, but she allows the listener time to take in the subtler shifts of language, too - I only wish we could have heard more.

I read five poems from my forthcoming book, The Elephant Tests, and got a good response. I'm determined that, by the time I've done a couple more readings, I'll have memorised a hardcore of the poems from the book.

The interview part was great. Jo's questions were pretty searching without being obvious, and it's actually a good way of finding out exactly what you think about your own writing and methods etc. Certainly, driving home later, I found myself mentally expanding upon and revising my answers.

For a 'page poet', David Morley is a very physical performer of his work (for reasons he explained last night), but I think what really makes him so compelling to watch is that he leavens that with a great stillness when necessary. His John Clare themed poems from his forthcoming book The Gypsy and the Poet were superb - it'll be a must-read.

I've seen Luke Wright read a couple of times previously, and he's never less than hugely entertaining, but I think he continues to get better each time, not least because the satirical edge to his work is both sharper and yet somehow less obvious. In fact, he and David were both fascinating on the subject of poetry with "palpable designs" on the reader - if anything last night showed that their seemingly very different approaches shared a lot of similarities.

And that was that. If ever an evening was worth a bit of gridlock, this was it - I just hope the audience enjoyed it as much as we did. Just to prove it, here's a picture of a very happy line-up, post-show.

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