Elinor Johns rounds up Poetry Live.

Images © Birkbeck Media Services / Dominic Mifsud


A fantastic evening was had by all at Poetry Live, our Arts week special event. On Monday 15th May, a closely packed audience listened enraptured, in the basement of the Harrison, where we were treated to an evening of the spoken word at its best.

The first section of the evening was led by those who had been selected for the open mic presentations. Steven Rogers read the atmospheric ‘Under Junction 30 of the old A13’ with aplomb. Next up, came Simon Coltman’s evocative poem, ‘Ashburnum,’ about a religious gathering.

Lauren Miller followed on with two poignant memories linked by a gesture in her poem, ’In a Municipality of Spain.’ Hot on her heels came the last three performers, Tom Norton, whose poem ‘Crossing the Line’ was an effective love poem about misplaced infatuation, Kate Jefford whose poem ‘They played hip-hop at the funeral’ was moving and dramatic and finally Kavita A. Jindall read ‘Kabariwala’ presenting a vivid snapshot of life in Delhi in the mid-seventies.

Two of our headliners ended the first half of the evening. Stephen Morrison- Burke showed off his skills as a consummate performer reciting two poems in his inimitable entrancing, rhythmical style. His first ‘Little Venus’ written two weeks before his daughter was born, was an honest and sometimes humorous evocation of his parental anxiety. The second ‘Spoken Word in 2042’ was a glorious utopian vision of a world where people are empowered and society made tolerant through the language of poetry.

Julia Bell closed the first half with a prize winning poem, the beautiful, concise, “Shape of the Moon” followed by a poignant yet amusing poem called ‘Phyllis Baked Beans’ depicting eponymous Phyllis whose religious doubt and lack of fulfilment bubble beneath the surface. These were followed with three poems written while in Berlin. There was the wry but striking poem ‘Fly Hard’ about ending a relationship, then ‘Near Miss’ a dramatic poem in which the poet reflects on her chance connection to a motorbike accident, followed by the exuberance of the poem ‘Off your Trolley.’ Finally, Julia read the poem ‘Night Walking’ written in the aftermath of a party, having taken amphetamines; a poem which powerfully declared, “Love… is an emergency.”

After a break for further drinks from the bar, the audience eagerly settled back down to hear the rest of the headline performers. First up was Sogol Sur who read three poems. The first ‘Infected Parrot,’ cloaked the poet’s concerns in humour as the poet tells us ‘gender is a performance’ and wonders ‘who to slaughter in my solipsistic bed.’ Her second poem ‘On the Phone’ used the device of rhetorical questions to the motherland conveying dark, political disillusionment, and the last poem ‘Understanding Anna’ written with a lightness of touch, told of a young man leading the poet into betrayal.

The theme of alienation was further evoked by Fran Lock whose poem ‘Cohort’ was a rhythmical incantation, lamenting the lot of disaffected, problem youths, the boys who “lived by hooch and gear.” The poet’s frustration at her impotence and her identification with their troubled souls was both moving and intense.

The final poet was Keith Jarrett who treated the audience to four poems. The first ‘The Last time my mouth was detained by Customs’ was a humorous means of exposing the nature of prejudice, ‘Sweet Ting’ a poem about Jamaica, suggested a less palatable history behind the sweet, surface beauty of the tourist’s perception. ‘Post Everything’ was a poem that depicted the ridiculous nature of politics and the media as they were perceived in 2013.

The poet humorously excuses his rant by letting us know that it’s the poem doing the preaching not the poet. Keith ended the evening with an energetic performance of ‘East End London’ The rhythm and rhyme was joyful and the poem’s evocation of the compromise the poet made as a studious, religious fifteen year old turning from wannabe rude boy into gospel rapper was highly entertaining.

Despite variations in tone and style, each of the poems heard in the course of the evening exemplified the zeitgeist, in that themes of identity and belonging recurred throughout. This made for a truly thought-provoking and inspiring event.

The next MIR live is on June 26th so put it in your diary, as it’s not to be missed!

Submit to our next event here.

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