You know an open mic night is beginning to make a name for itself when Ezra Pound makes an unscheduled appearance, and refuses to sit down.
The father of modernist poetry/great man/mad old fascist, as he was variously described by readers (and the three are, of course, not mutually exclusive), first cropped up in Robert Richardson’s open mic slot at last night’s Shindig in Leicester (he read three short poems by Pound). And, as seems to be the way with these nights, and with all good open mic nights for that matter, other readers responded by reading his work too, or by reading work informed by or influenced by Pound.
Such themes and tropes have a habit of turning up, as Jane Commane of Nine Arches Press pointed out, but uninvited or not, they’re ultimately welcome, giving the evening something to coalesce around, or work against, on occasion.
Some of my highlights among last night’s open mic-ers included Charles Lauder Jr’s poem The Rocking Chair Thief (think that’s the right title), Kerry Featherstone’s two pieces, Gary Carr (incidentally, here’s the terrific poem he read at the last Shindig) and Graham Norman’s short, taut poems themed around the canonical hours, but in truth there was barely a dud note all night.
The same was true of the featured readers. I’ve blogged previously about Angela France and Daniel Sluman, who made up the Nine Arches half of the bill – both are fine poets who also read well. Angela’s newer work (due to appear in a book from Nine Arches early next year) is intriguingly different from her earlier pamphlet and collection – much more personal and direct. I particularly liked the piece she read about family superstitions.
Daniel read, as ever, with great poise. There’s a contrast between the often difficult subject matter of his poems (the loss of a leg to cancer, troubled relationships, and last night, abuse) and the relaxed and witty introductions that works well, but he’s not a poet to settle for the easy laugh. I could say a lot more, but I want to keep my powder dry for the review of his book that I’ll post soon, especially as two of the poems he read last night are two that I focus on.
In the second half, Sarah Jackson read well from her Bloodaxe collection Pelt. I heard her read in Nottingham a couple of years back, but the newer work was the highlight for me.
Rory Waterman closed the night, with poems from his debut collection from Carcanet (due around this time next year). I knew some of them already, having seen his work in Carcanet’s New Poetries V, but there was an awful lot to enjoy right across the board – the creeping sense of menace in his American-set poem was great. I think it was probably a more rounded selection of his work than appears in New Poetries V, good as that is, and it augured well for that collection next year.