I went to a book launch last night, in Kidderminster, the town I had some of my blackest moments in, it's a hate-hate relationship, anyway the poetry book is called Ghost Town Music and the poet's name is Bobby Parker.
It was a strong event with tremendous performances. Each was completely different and explored many different themes. (Disclaimer: if I forget anyone in my review, don't shoot me, I am tired and the baby keeps trying to hit me with his little plastic chainsaw)
The first poet was from the black country, forgive me for forgetting his name, but he spoke lines that were comic and he had some precise observations of society. Heather Wastie gave a slick and confident performance, the first person perspective of an apostraphe! Sarah James was excellent as usual, she performed a vivid poem about the tiger and her stand out poem for me was the darkly comic '10 things to do before you die.'
Andrew Green gave a triumphant performance for the marginalised in life with his haunting lines of sung poetry. A poet called Adele gave a very electric performance, her poem that was about poetry itself and what it had brought to her life was perfect, she commands attention through accent and rythym . Raven's poems had a dark edge to them and I wish she had paused slightly, her voice was deep and interesting and it would have given her lines time to reach the audience. Her villanelle was extremely good.
Sarah Tamar has a way of involving the whole audience, she is generous with her pacing and delivery. She managaed to make everyone laugh and then left us all thinking with a polemical poem about the world being unsafe for unborn children. Chris Guidon writes quite incredible poetry, it seems flippant and shocking, for example the subject matter is wanking, but it is crafted skillfully, folding the listener into the poem with a conclusion at the end that is satisfying and unmistakably tender.
Bobby Parker opened and closed the event. I had not heard him perform before but I had read some of his work online and I was looking forward to hearing him live.He gave a confident and strong performance, holding the audience rapt. For me, his stand out piece of the night was Madness Letters and after reading his book I think it is in there too. It is a really fantastic poem, a collection of fragments that present and examine madness. The repeated use of 'Elizabeth says' is both hypnotic and disquieting. The pace of the poem is skillful and some of the lines exquisite to my ear,
'...From the swing in my garden
the clouds over the allotment
look like three witches fighting
over who gets to sleep with the sun.'
The subject matter is dark and obsessive, compulsive sex and dislike, boredom and madness, finally recovery. The power of this poet is the flip between comedy and pathos; holding a light bulb up to reader and forcing them to look at the unpallatable...and still finding beauty in the ugliness and in his words.
The book combines comic strips with prose pieces and poems. It is bold and arresting, I could not stop reading it. For me, it took me somewhere I don't like to go, reminded me of going out with someone who hid his habit from me and for that reason I found it very vivid even as it upset me, becaue yes, this book is upsetting, especially the prose piece about the dealer and her dogs and baby. It feels very authentic and sounds like a confessional. It is has many moments of precise observation and humour. Despite the discomfort I think it has many remarkable images and the poem 'Madness Letters' is the work of a talented poet.
Once young men were compared to tigers-
He is such a tiger, as sinous and powerful
Young women were likened to a lark
Singing or a deer; she is a doe, as graceful
Now animals have their majesty disembled
Strength reduced when wrapped in wires
Can animals be admired when they are victims
Sacrificed on the burning greed of human pyres
In the future young men will be compared to cars
He is as elegant as a mercedes, as swift
As a fighter plane, young women will be
Compared to money, she is a shiny, golden gift
The trees are covered in glinting fairy lights
Blue and silver polished points in the plaza
Green leaves and their shivers are banished
In exchange for aspirations
Made physical like pinned
Powder dry butterflies or thousands of eyes
Unblinking; their muscles are cut
Sliced through with avarice
The secret tree is not a secret
It stands on the edge of the field
Roots in the brook seeking water
Old man willow, your nooks are rooms
For hedgehogs, your limbs shape the den
That is supposed to be secret
Don't tell anyone, a child says
His shoe slips from his foot and falls
Deep into the tree, his sister
Breaks a stick and pokes the darkness
Retrieves it and silences all tears
Don't tell anyone this green tale
The secret tree is now your secret
No toy guns, no plastic replica of a lethal device
I was firm about it; no guns, life is sacred
Then a stick was slashed into a whippy sabre
The thrust and parry of the common hazel twig
Lego built with care can be transformed into a star
Wars blaster; don't worry mum, we are only killing