Friday, February 04, 2011

The Other Room & Counting Backwards

An oral feast over the last two days.

Firstly, Posie Rider, Joe Walton/Jow Lindsey and Stephen Emmerson in the Old Abbey Inn. In many ways, as good as usual. I really liked the 'conversation' between Posie Rider and Jow Lindsey, that was in turn, apaocalyptic, funny, associative, tender and edgy. Jow Lindsey started off by speaking in a very unconvincintg woman's voice; and there was a sly smile on his face throughout the proceedings. I liked it very much, and purchased a copy of The Woman by another Joe Waltong heteronym, Yolanda Tudor-Bloch, in the break.

Stephen Emmerson came into his reading like an express train, read a short poem that he pretended was by Simon Armitage, then a very long extract from a very long piece that seemed to be partly about schizpphrenia. I have to admit there were times when he was reading when - like Coleman Hawkins once said to John Coltrane - I wanted him to "take the fucking horn out of his mouth..." There were lots of associative leaps, uses of technical/medical language, and he very rarely slowed down long enough to take a breath. Or for the audience to take a breath. But when he did slow down, there were moments of extraordinary beauty. He writes a very edgy, energetic poetry; and I did enjoy it, but afterwards I felt like going to a darkened room and putting John Cage's 4'31" on repeat.

Counting Backwards was a revelation. I sometimes miss this because it comes straight after The Other Room and I don't feel like going out two nights in a row; but I'm glad I went last night. First, there was the conceptual/minimalist poetry of James Davies, reading using a projector from his acronyms series and from a piece called Two Fat Boys. I'm not always a big fan of minimalist poetry; but this was really rather good, especially the second part which was in turns funny and disturbing. There was a final poem of visuals: boxes with dots strategically placed in some of them and phrases. Throughout, James sat in an armchair directing the whole thing.

Then Helen Shanahan painted onto the back of the sheet on which James had projected his acronyms; there was a film of what looked like Dungeness showing and she described a set of photos which we couldn't see. The piece seemed to be about memory as much as anything, and the emotional connections we make to images. It was rather lovely.

The second half was extraordinary: the first performance of Juxtavoices, led by Martin Archer. They were a largely amatuer choir that included Alan Halsey and Geraldine Monk, and the most standout piece was probably Three Iterations of a Poem by Samuel Beckett. But the blend of voices, the use of clicks, whistles, harmony and disharmony was extraordinary in all the pieces.

The Phil Davenport read just one piece: partly about and around the death of Micheal Jackson, but also taking in the torture at Abu Ghraib. He read quietly and simply into a microphone, with no special effects, and was very effective.

There's something very wonderful going on at the moment, when these extraordinary events can take place in one city. We have, I suppose, a fairly small community; but it's busy. Pretty soon, there's going to be a Writers' Forum North, which will hopefully help to cement the scene together. I'm looking forward to the future of poetry beyond the mainstream in Manchester.

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