Shindig Live Poetry Leicester 30 January 2017

Poster for Shindig poetry readingsShindig is organised by Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators and the former usually lead the first half while the latter take over after the interval. Tonight Nine Arches Press was launching Under the Radar #18 and Crystal Clear Creators featured readings from Deborah Tyler-Bennett and Andrew Button.

Each half starts with open mic slots. Will Coles took the first slot with a sonnet from a series of ‘delinquent sonnets’ looking at rubber-neckers gathered after an accident, “he’s moving so he’s not dead” ending on the line “We’ll feed on him another day.”. Thomas Irvine gave us another sonnet about Icarus. It was third poet Richard Byrt who hit on the novel idea of giving the audience the title of the poem about to be read, here “Motivating Millie”, a darkly humorous list of suggestions of things Millie could do, gradually revealing that elderly Millie’s relatives are thinking of a care home for her and these ideas are to “Stop them deciding they have to put you away.” Ambrose Musiyiwa rounded off the open mic slots with a topical poem about Martians (and the aliening of refugees) of which I know the title because I saw it published in “The Journal.”

Jane Commane of Nine Arches kicked off the Under the Radar launch by reading two poems, “Hail” by John Challis and “The Way Queenie Smokes” by Edward Long, confessing that the latter poem gave her cravings for a cigarette,

“The way Queenie smokes is why they call him Queenie,
ballet-poise along his whole arm out to his held fingers.
Long sensuous drawing up of the smoke into his lungs,
a gentle letting forth of smoke from his mouth.

The rasp to his laugh rattles his belly
squashed tight into his stained t-shirt.”

Reviews editor, Maria Taylor, picked Catherine Ayres’ “Solistice”

“Perhaps I’ll find you in the valley’s bruise,
the jolt of your eyes in a seam of light;
I have my plans these winter nights
when the spent candle stumbles, gone,”

This was read before Joe Caldwell’s “Transmigration.” Deborah Tyler-Bennett picked both of Josephine Shaw’s poems “On the Banks of the Aude” and “Mum and Dad enjoy a Cocktail.” Cathy Whittaker read “St Jerome” where she wonders if his wife viewed him in quite the same way as those who laud him, and “Message to My Grandfather” (not featured in the magazine). Reviewer D A Prince selected Ramona Herdman’s “Wake Up: Time to Die” which takes a quote from “Bladerunner” as its source inspiration, explaining “It grabbed me and I went straight back to the beginning to see how she did it.” Her second selection was a short extract from Martin Figura’s “Shed” which she had reviewed. Fiona Theokritoff read her poem “Cartographer” and another, “Wrong Turning.” Although availability played a big part in selections, in a issue which includes poems from Sarah Barnsley, Giles Goodland, Josh Ekroy, Fran Lock, Jessica Mookherjee and Rory Waterman amongst others, a mere two poems would have been a tough choice.

Maria Taylor was back, this time in her Crystal Clear Creators role, to get the second half underway. She read her own poem, “Don and the Age of Aquarius”, imagining someone like Donald Trump meeting a hippy angel in 1967’s Summer of Love. Jim Kersey had three short poems, “Inheritance,” “Inspiration” and “Dawn” forming part of an “Autumn Verses” sequence. The first two had a serious tone, exploring rich autumnal shades and colours. The third was light-hearted, starting “Shall I compare thee to a maple tree/ though thou are more temperamental.” More humour from John Lloyd’s “I Believe” based on the foundation that if he’d signed up to the university of life, “it enrolled me on the wrong course.” Most open mic slots were taken by Shindig regulars, but both Johns were reading at Shindig for the first time and got a warm welcome. Dave Tunnley kept up the autumnal theme in “Imagine Travel.” I read “The Shoemaker’s Walk” from “Welcome to Leicester“. Angela Bailey read “Rania’s Story”, a woman fleeing Syria with her children but leaving her elderly mother behind and the guilt, “as close as a sapling to its roots.” Rob Jones wrapped up the open mic session with a poem about a house shared by three humanities students living in “nostalgic tribute to ‘Black Books’ or ‘Withail and I’,” a poem apparently without title.

Featured poet, Deborah Tyler-Bennett started with three poems, “Ways Home,” “North’s Street” and “Sutton-in-Ashfield” from “Napoleon Solo Biscuits” which I reviewed for London Grip here. She then read new poems from her forthcoming collection “Mr Bowlly Regrets”, “Overheard on the Threes”, eavesdropping a conversation on a long bus journey. “No Relation” inspired by the discovery that some soldiers who served in the First World War had put down employers as their next of kin because they had no family to return to. “Then” inspired by a grandmother, looking at “Superstitutions” shared by her grandmother and her grandmother’s sister who saw “sleek magpies not as thieves but portents.” “Upstairs at the Trading Post” where a down-to-earth woman is wary of a ghost “lurking upstairs while she did the cleaning.” A star of the silent film era is recalled in “Popping By” where a “soldier hubby’s specs matching those of Harold Lloyd hanging on to that clock face.”

Second featured poet was Andrew Button whose “Dry Days in Wet Towns” has just been published by erbacce press. He introduced us to a selection of dryly observed humour. “Glasgow Hotel” could have been drawn from Edgar Allan Poe’s imagination. “The Only Clue” ends “roving extraterrestrials will still find a shopping trolley in a canal.” “after the drive-thru refusal (no fence involved)”, a woman takes her horse into McDonalds in “We’re Lovin’ It”. “Two Dickies” is about a statue to the cricket umpire Dicky Bird. “Turner in his Grave” muses on a Turner Prize entry. “Light of Wonder” was a tribute to Ray Bradbury who “coaxed my fledging pen to write on” and ending “your books will never burn.” Andrew Button is a collector of news stories, not unlike Marcel Proust, and the quirkier the better. “Navel Pursuit” takes inspiration from a story about a man who collected navel fluff. “Microphone” was a nod to childhood where he and friends would past the time recording made-up jingles. The final poem “After the Rain”, the name of a bubble bath, a tender tribute to his wife.

“Under the Radar” magazine is available from Nine Arches Press.

Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s collections are published by Kings England Press.

Andrew Button’s “Dry Days in Wet Towns in available from erbacce press.

 


 

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“Lost Lands” Aly Stoneman (Crystal Clear Creators) – poetry review

Lost Lands Aly Stoneman book coverAly Stoneman is concerned with landscapes both in the actual countryside and the landscape of a poem on the page. “Mermaids” starts,

“I walked a blank white page
between scarred headland
and storm-line heaped with weed
and litter, stinking of the sea.”

A stanza which manages to move from intrigue, “blank white page/…scarred headland” to the more banal “heaped with weed/and litter, stinking of the sea”. The seaweed and stench were doubtless there but their presence is predictable and the stanza doesn’t offer a new way of sensing them or use them beyond observing them.

In “Wyld” there’s a countryside walk where the “we” of the poem are not identified and their relationship is not spelt out either so readers don’t know if they are friends or lovers. Perhaps the poet’s intention is that it doesn’t matter.

“We paddle and wash near Bigsweir Bridge;
canoeists greet us, swans observe us.
At Lower Hail after dark, outstretched

on a platform of flat stones, we seem to sail.
Bright stars are not police helicopters,
nor owl-calls the screeching brakes

of stolen cars. Satellites flare and dim.
Conifer trees are sharp black cut-outs
against constellations we cannot name.”

The poem ends with the walkers catching a bus and going their separate ways, “waving until you vanish in the heavy rain.” The walkers are urbanites enjoying the country and the contrasts between natural sounds and artificial city sounds. Look how passive it is, “canoeists greet us, swans observe us,” “we seem to sail,” the list of observations. It feels as if the reader is being kept at one remove, distanced from the action by the passive voice of the writing. This is a shame as the writing shows awareness of craft but appears to be searching for a subject it feels passionately enough about to ditch the passive voice in favour of an active one.

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Other Crystal Clear Creators publications:

“Citizen Kaned” Andrew Mulletproof Graves

“Bleeds” Charles Lauder Jr

“Gopagilla” Roy Marshall

“Someone Else’s Photograph” Jessica Mayhew

“Without Makeup” Hannah Stevens

“Without Makeup” Hannah Stevens (Crystal Clear Creators) – short story review

Hannah Stevens Without Makeup book coverSix short stories featuring characters in transition, not always of their own volition for example redundancy in the title story where the narrating character, who is being made redundant, is observing the stress facing by someone who, through an affair with a married man, is not only keeping her job but being promoted. It’s a measure of the writer’s skill that the promoted woman retains the reader’s sympathy.

In “Lilac Tree” the narrator slips through the net and heads for rock bottom, “No one asks me why I drink and I’m glad, because I don’t really have an answer. Maybe it’s that flood of darkness. The fade of the world with each swallow, the fade of the world with each glass. To be something unordered. To have thoughts undefined. But still there is the loneliness.” The narrator, like characters is the other stories, is allowed problems but not self-pity and there’s a hint of redemption towards the end.

Bruises feature either in descriptions of colour or actual bruises reflecting the internal damage felt by characters. In “The Noises of Being Torn”, the narrator knows her relationship with her lover is coming to an end but isn’t ready to move on quite yet, she observes “To want someone, it doesn’t take much. It doesn’t have to be about how beautiful a whole face is. Maybe a pair of eyes is just the right colour. Or they light their cigarette in just the right way. Or their hands are the kind of hands that you like. Then they’re crushing your thoughts and everything is crowded with them.” Before musing on the need to divide everything up and create two separate lives again.

Although each story does stand alone, some of the characters and situations recur giving the reader the opportunity to see them from another angle and giving the collection a sense of coherence. The characters are credibly drawn with minimal but telling details. Plot-wise some of these stories do have a “not a lot happens” feel but they are not pacey, plot-driven set scenes packed with witty one-liners with characters whose sole purpose is to keep the plot moving. Their strength is that they give the reader space and time to absorb stories told at the character’s pace in the character’s own words. Hannah Stevens cares about how her stories are told.

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Other Crystal Clear Creators publications:

“Citizen Kaned” Andrew Mulletproof Graves

“Bleeds” Charles Lauder Jr

“Gopagilla” Roy Marshall

“Someone Else’s Photograph” Jessica Mayhew

“Someone Else’s Photograph” Jessica Mayhew (Crystal Clear Creators) – poetry review

Jessica Mayhew Someone Else's Photograph

Jessica Mayhew is interested in the other and people external to the poet along with a sense of family inheritance. There are poems about relatives and friends, other people, neighbours’ gardens, the sea, exploring people’s reactions to the actions of others or their landscape. Although the poet is present, she is often not the subject of the poems. For example in “Pub Lunch”

“A bee trickles on the lip
of your glass. You swat and miss,

sending it into shivering flight,
unseaming chubby jointed legs, coarse
yellow hairs. Unhook the sting,

until all that is left are the quarks
which tumble and fizz like pollen grains.
You’re not listening, you say.”

Readers don’t know who the “you” is but they are ineffectual, neither engaging the poet nor successfully swatting the bee. The bee becomes a metaphor for them: the clumsy flight as clumsy as the efforts of “you” to engage the poet/narrator in the conversation. Not all poems have a air of seeming inconsequence, in “The Great Ocean Road Motel”

”Here is a dark beyond the dark you’ve known,
and that sound will go on uninvestigated
you think, and lie on the top sheet, fully clothed.”

There’s a sense of menace without over-dramatising or labouring the point. “Someone Else’s Photograph” demonstrates skill to complement talent.

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Other Crystal Clear Creators publications:

Citizen Kaned” Andrew Mulletproof Graves

“Bleeds” Charles Lauder Jr

“Gopagilla” Roy Marshall

“Gopagilla” Roy Marshall (Crystal Clear Creators) – poetry review

Gopagilla by Roy Marshall poetry pamphlet cover

The pamphlet’s title is a word made up by the poet’s son, who also features in the poem “Rose,”

“arms flung above his head,
a mirror of his mother.

Their murmurs and breath
float from open lips

his a perfect miniature
of her own sleep-slackened rose.”

Although the poem holds sentiment, it is not sentimental and sets the tone for the rest of the pamphlet. There’s only a couple of baby poems too, Roy Marshall is clearly aware that other won’t share a parent’s fascination for their own child. There are touches of childhood, in “Egg”

“‘The baby bird will die,’ she says,
‘it’s [sic] mother will leave because of your scent.’

I tip it warm and blue, into the nest,
walk to the classroom, my face hot and wet,
the world off kilter.”

Again there’s a demonstration of control and allowance of space for readers who are not told what to think. The actions are allowed to speak for themselves. The tone of softness in “I tip it warm and blue, into the nest” contrasted by the instructional tone of “walk to the classroom” echoing the change in mood from a optimistic taking a chance the bird will accept the egg despite its being tainted by human scent to the pessimistic “world off kilter”.

“Gopagilla” doesn’t just offer personal poems either. “Records on the Bones” is in the USSR where underground presses printed flexi-discs of American Jazz records on discarded x-ray sheets often leaving the x-ray visible.

“grooves cut into opaque femurs,
hair-lined metatarsals and wrists,
furrows on fields of cranium, long since gone to ground.

Smuggled under over-coats through the streets
was the promise of jazz, sleeved between
twilight and heartbeat,

carried up back stairs to box rooms where
the snare flitted like sun-light through a line
of freight; this is how St. Louis and all its saints

came to Leningrad, in the bootlegged sound of those
who were born as slaves, musicians who drew us along
in the wake of all that western decadence.”

“Gopagilla” demonstrates a firm foundation for future collections from a poet who appreciates the need for poems to communicate with and offer space for readers. Available from Crystal Clear Creators.

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Reviews of other Crystal Clear Creators publications:

“Citizen Kaned” Andrew Mulletproof Graves

“Bleeds” Charles Lauder Jr

“Bleeds” Charles Lauder Jr (Crystal Clear Creators) – poetry review

Bleeds by Charles Lauder book cover

Charles Lauder concerns himself with human interaction with landscape, eg in “In This House”, contrast the “lush green safari-land” of happy children with the bees and weeds of the isolated children:

“The division cuts through the house in zig-zag fashion
one side lush green safari-land with the rhythm of locusts
beads of sweat row upon row lining up
to ski down the young backs the other side cordoned off
behind closed doors in cool isolation
where the children flee from the bees
and the heat and pulling weeds in their father’s garden
feet sticky and stained with grass camping out
in front of the TV all morning long. The same division
as at night when the children are ushered back
to the other side to bed the muffled peals
of their parents’ party seeping through
the wall and humidity rolling in
through the open window over their bare chests.”

Spaces are used to suggest caesura, a guide to both reading aloud and the sense of the poem. The weeds are both literal, there are weeds in the garden, and metaphoric, the parents regard their children as weeds diminishing their adult lives.

There’s also an interest in ancestry and inheritance. In “Black Dutch”, a illegitimate boy who was put up for adoption grows into a man whose

“workmates called him Andy
and his wife called him Carl
to his children he was Daddy
and to their children Pa-paw
I was the love child of a German doctor
and his maid he told the family
but by then the secret had circulated
the room Black Dutch coming to mean
Jew Comanche Mexican

but to his mother who taught him to fish
shoot drive a car at twelve and make
bathtub gin who hadn’t the heart to tell him
he wasn’t hers until after he had married to her
he would always be my little nigger baby.”

His unknown origins make him forever an outsider, given different identities by different people and never quite completely whole.

As a Texan living in England, Charles Lauder is aware of the desire to be part of a new community whilst not losing sight of his own origins. The poem’s rhythm and layout are influenced by contemporary American poetry where end of line pauses are slight and one line often runs onto the next. Spelling is mostly English with an occasional Americanism slipping in. The combination works and the themes are sustained for the length of a pamphlet. However, for a full collection, I’d like to see more experimentation, a break from the sameness of tone and rhythm. “Bleeds” is available from Crystal Clear Creators.

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Crystal Clear Creators Pamphlets Launch De Montfort University 2 March 2012

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.

Pamphlet Covers for Crystal Clear Creators poetry and prose

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