Andrew Mulletproof Graves is firmly rooted in his native Nottingham with poems about local heroes such as Brian Clough and Alan Sillitoe but uses it as a base to explore broader, international themes. His heroes are flawed, a product of their circumstances, for instance Rondo Hatton (1894 – 1946), an actor who suffered with feature-distorting acromegaly in “Not all Monsters Come in Kits,”
“And the studio had you
cheap, playing for your disease
your Hyde face untouched by
potion or mythology.
Bathed in lights of the surgery
via Hollywood creeps and monochrome
into nature’s callous make-up bag, a
ghoul of doomed integrity.”
There’s empathy here and a natural ear for rhythm, as readers would expect from a performance poet. “Johnny” doesn’t need a surname:
“takes on the crowd in a pincer attack,
the Country boy bleeds and he bleeds black.
Wears his coat like dark brushed skin,
whip-smart, piece of art, vampire thin.”
Although the details are specific to Johnny Cash, the poem draws a picture anyone can recognise. In contrast to “Not all Monsters Come in Kits”, which uses feminine endings suggesting compassion and empathy, “Johnny” uses masculine endings and full rhymes supported by internal rhymes to produce a muscular effect.
I don’t draw any distinction between “performance” and “page” poetry. Genuine poems work both in performance and on page because the poem’s elements of words, sounds and rhythm complement each other, creating a result that’s more than the sum of its parts. In “Citizen Kaned” Andrew Mulletproof Graves shows he can both perform and write.
The Crystal Clear Creators pamphlets were produced via a mentoring scheme where established writers mentored writers who hadn’t yet published an individual collection. Andrew Mulletproof Graves was mentored by Deborah Tyler-Bennett, a fitting partnership as both share a home town and both with a keen ear not just for words but the sound of the words too.
By Emma Lee