Crystal Clear Creators received 100 entries to a competition where six shortlisted poets and/or short story writers would win a chance to be mentored towards a pamphlet publication. Tonight, those pamphlets, “Citizen Kaned” by Andrew Mulletproof Graves, “Bleeds” by Charles Lauder Jr, “Gopagilla” by Roy Marshall, “Someone Else’s Photograph” by Jessica Mayhew, “Without Makeup” by Hannah Stevens and “Lost Lands” by Aly Stoneman (in alphabetical order of author), were launched.
The evening kicked off with a series of open mic slots beginning with Jayne Stanton’s “Clothes Horse”, a poignant exploration of memories. Didn’t quite catch the name of the second open mic but it could have been David McCormack with “Targets”, ‘heads bowed by memento mori’, a satire on the culture of setting targets for the sake of targets, Sue Mackrell read a wordy piece based on photos taken in Serbia by a professional Albanian photographer, “Diasphoric Memories”, that I felt I needed to read from the page. Mike Brewer lightened the mood with “Newness” and Richard Roberts (another name I’m not sure of) with a successful computer-generated satire.
The first pamphlet to be launched was Andrew Mulletproof Graves’s “Citizen Kaned”. Mentor Deborah Tyler-Bennett introduced it as an ‘exploration of pop sensibility’ and explained she was initially concerned that the poems may not be so strong on paper as they had been in performance but those initial concerns soon faded. Andrew Mulletproof Graves chose to read two poems from “Citizen Kaned”, “Ceremony” where in ‘reek of skunk and Asda beans/ strides the Burger King and his Bed-sit Queen’, and the ‘difficult second poem’ (akin to the difficult second album), from the title poem, “Citizen Kaned”, with its ‘hark the homeless angels sing to the gory Bourbon king’ refrain. Andrew finished on a tribute to Davy Jones, a ‘cheeky backstreet prince’. A confident, warm start.
Maria Taylor mentored Jessica Mayhew said she’d learnt a lot and started reading Jessica’s influences, highlighting the benefits of exposure to poems a poet wouldn’t necessarily chose to read for themselves. Jessica Mayhew started with the title poem, where ‘the Atlantic even erases itself.’ “Stealing from her garden” had an image of a face reflected in a darkened window as a ghost in the house. “The Gypsy’s Daughter” described the ‘timber ribs’ of a burnt out house. “Box of Swans”, a red velvet box with embellished swans ‘bell chimed a memory which could have been mine’ with a final image of swans flying out to sea. A finely balanced reading where the introductions didn’t overwhelm the poems with were read with clarity.
Wayne Burrows had mentored Roy Marshall but wasn’t available tonight so Maria Taylor introduced him. Roy Marshall started with “Convergence, Divergence” with the image ‘slide of words to become an eclipse’. In “Rose” his baby son is lying with mother in ‘sleep slackened rose’. The pamphlet’s title is one of his son’s made-up words. In “Telepathy” a coach trip ends with his girlfriend saying it’s over although he already knows. “Arm Wrestling with Nonno” describes how a war veteran allows the boy to win. These conveyed a warm and a desire to communicate.
An interval was followed by a second open mic slot. Bob Richardson started with “Bix” where a jazz musician sent home recordings that he later found unopened by his family. Amanda Durrant (not completely sure of her surname) read two poems very quickly. Picked up that the second one was about a Chinese puzzle which was ‘alabaster hard, undefeated by lint.’ Graham Norman read “Instrument of Thought” followed by Kim Leiser with “Ode to Titan”, a timely ode. James and Zee didn’t own up to surnames and performed a poem about writing a poem.
Back to the pamphlets and Mark Goodwin introduced Charles Lauder Jr, a transplanted Texan interweaving US and UK experiences. Charles Lauder started with “Scheherazade arrives in Boston” ‘sitting on the bed’s edge, she taught him to smoke’. In a sequence of poems throughout “Bleeds” called “Touchable” this was the second one, ‘she rips the sheet from the bed/ terrain I had begun to explore/ now untouchable’. Finished on a poem “Your Face Before Your Parents were Born” exploring family legacies. Sensual poems read with warmth.
David Belbin introduced Hannah Stevens, the only short story writer here, who read “Without Make-up” set in an office with redundancies pending seeing ‘clouds pressed to the surface of the sky’. Prose informed with a poetic sensibility.
Mark Goodwin also mentored Aly Stoneman a good match as both have focused on landscapes. In “Fall of Snow” ‘acidic spines of brown pine needles underfoot.’ The landscapes weren’t just natural as “I put away childhood things” demonstrates with a landscape of childhood packed away, but not the memories, eg ‘books about keeping pets, but not our stories’. “Matriline” followed maternal heritage via sewing and wedding dresses and how the poet hasn’t followed tradition. A nervous reading but the poems came across as all having something to communicate and share with readers.
Each reading was welcoming and the extracts well-chosen to say “come and read more”. Reviews of the individual pamphlets may follow. Pamphlets are available from Crystal Clear Creators.
Note to open mic poets: do introduce yourselves, people aren’t going to remember you, check out your work and/or friend you on social media if they didn’t catch your name. There was a lot of audience noise (mostly receptive applause) and some of Jonathan’s introductions got drowned out.
Note to De Montfort University: last time I attended a reading during your Cultural eXchanges Festival, I was greeted with “you’re too early, go away”. This time I was greeted with a doubtful-looking door attendant who asked if I’d booked. Whilst I scrabbled in my mind’s eye for any references to booking in the pre-event publicity (there weren’t any), she then explained “we’re trying to keep numbers down.” I get the hint: I’ll stay away next year.
Article by Emma Lee