I went to Brum the other night to Hit the Ode at The Victoria pub, and what a fine night it was. So many vivid poets in one dark little room, it was rather splendid actually. A real buzz of excitement as each poet brought their own personality and style to the stage. Something for everyone, even people who swear they don't like poetry. I think if those people just went, brought a pint and sat back they would be amazed how words said out loud can take you places and inspire so many emotions, from elation to disgust! Really, one poet can recite a poem that reminds me of the pain of being a teenage girl, the next can be ranting about something I want to stand up and disagree about, but both emotions are welcome : it is essential to feel vivid emotions rather than just the comfortable blandness that TV generates, so everyone should go to cafes or pubs and listen to poets. This is my new advice to those suffering boredom.
So, Hit the Ode, the open mic spots were interesting and varied. Some were hilarious, making the crowd bellow with laughter! Long Lost Frank was cocky in his delivery, confident as he performed with a pint and his queue jumping poem was spot on, I had a massive grin on my face. I especially enjoyed Louise Stokes with her witty and effective use of accents. Ddotti Bluebell made me laugh out loud with her marvelous poem about hair. She was also great at evoking different characters through accent and mannerisms. However the poem also touched on the pressure girls feel to look beautiful and reminded me of my teenage anxieties. Very moving.
Then there were poets who made me think (cogs were whirring loudly as each line sunk in to be thought about later, did I agree or disagree and WHY?) Laurence Inman read a cynical and comic poem about the negatives in teaching which made me chuckle, as I am about to do some work experience as an English Sixth Form teacher and I was sat next to the fabulous Fergus McGonigal, who is also a teacher.
Mr Morrison had a laid back delivery that worked so well as it allowed the audience to absorb his words, the pauses allowed the space for it all to sink in, however I felt uncomfortable with his second poem and the view of women it contained, yet I cannot fault his performance, which was good as he didn't let a few stumbles stop his flow but carried on and held the crowd.
Now, I am not a professional review person so I don't know/ remember the names of the other open mic guys, not because they weren't any good but because my memory is limp after having three babies in quick succession. The one young girl had just won a comp and this was her first performance, she read a few poems but the third, the comp winner was very good. It was about Anna Akhmatova, the images were precise and delicate and I really enjoyed it.
Now to the headline acts...
Laura Wihlborg & Oskar Hanska:
Oskar and Laura were from Sweden and it was a real treat to hear them. They took it in turns to perform and they were like two sides of an intense coin, Laura cool, still and poised, Oskar emotional, passionate and restless. I enjoyed all their poems. Oskar's poem about the drama between lovers was full of observations that I related to instantly, but my favourite of his was the one he performed in Swedish. Incredible and mesmerising, I didn't need to know the exact when the abstract sounded so beautiful, I really loved the sound of the Swedish words.
Laura had a vulnerable, tense delivery but not nervous, it was incredibly polished and deliberate and worked brilliantly. She was kooky and I liked her surreal poetry. Her poem about calling from hell for an airline flight was astonishing. Really brave and exciting. Likewise her poem where she used recordings when she had called travel agents to request a holiday to 'find herself' was audacious really and I loved the freaked out voice of the travel agents.
All poetry nights I have been to there is always one poem that is the stand out poem of the night and for me, at this event, it was performed by Luke Kennard. He rushed in and rushed out, he was charming and told anecdotes and went off on a tangent, all of which was entertaining but it was the poetry that was brilliant.
The last poem was in eight chapters and was about a talking wolf who moved into his flat. I have later found out that the wolf is a recurring character in his poetry books and I really want to read more of his wolf poems now. To say I like animals that talk is an understatement. I am writing my dissertation on talking animal characters in contemporary Native American fiction so the wolf character chatting to Kennard about his posh voice was not odd but my everyday reading. The dialogue between wolf and man was sharp, clever and funny. An alter-ego to allow a polemical voice? To say the things the poet cannot? Here is a link to one of the wolf conversations discussing alter-egos, so make up your own mind about it. But go and see Luke Kennard if you can.
Was from London and he was very talented. He performed a seriously funny poem about working in a cake shop and one about kidnapping people who do not tip. He used his whole body, face, voice to tell the stories. He raps as well as performs spoken word poems and he used his rapping expertise to parody a rap contest. Witty and perfectly performed.