I've written on here before about how, at the best poetry open mic nights (and Shindig is certainly one of those), a mysterious process seems to take place by which many of the poems coalesce around a unstated theme.
It happened again last night, with a string of poems about drugs, booze, addiction, and the fall-out from such things. I didn't catch all the names, but there was an astonishingly assured first-ever performance by a young man called (I think) DP Horton, and another fine poem from David Devaney (I think I've got that right). The regulars rose to the challenge, too - Rebecca Bird's Parisienne poem, and Roy Marshall's rather menacing, butcher-themed piece, were among the highlights, but there was a lot else to enjoy, too.
Of the featured readers, both Lydia Towsey and Deborah Tyler-Bennett, who formed the first half of the bill, are familiar faces, but no less impressive for that. Lydia actually did just two, long poems, both performed from memory (something that always impresses me) - the second of them, with its Spanish setting, was particularly fine. Deborah's new book, Turned Out Nice Again, is a collection of stories about music hall and variety in the East Midlands, and as with her poetry, it demonstrates a great ear for natural speech, especially where accent and dialect are concerned (nowhere but the East Midlands is 'home' pronounced 'omm').
After the break Martin Malone read superbly, both from his Templar collection The Waiting Hillside, and from newer work, touching on memory, family, masculinity and landscape. It's the first time I've met Martin or heard him read (although I've long since enjoyed the book), and he's a born performer, projecting his poems through that mixture of stillness and energy that I've talked about before.
Sarah James was a totally new poet to me, but I'll look forward to reading more of her work. She's had collections out from Circaidy Gregory and Knives Forks & Spoons, and her poetry rather defies easy categorisation, flitting between the mainstream and the more experimental without ever being intimidating.
Finally, it's just worth mentioning that there's an additional Nine Arches event in Leicester next month, on Friday October 25th at the Quaker Meeting House on Queen's Road, Clarendon Park. For just £5 you get four poets (Mario Petrucci, Claire Trevien, Alistair Noon and myself, plus tea and cakes). Follow the link to book.