Thursday, 22 September 2011
Festival Review 2: Poetry in the Secret Cinema
Auden in the snow (just because I love the picture)
Friday night was the young poets and musicians in the secret cinema: five poets (Tim Cockburn, Julia Webb, Andrew McDonnell, Tom Warner and Kate Kilalea) and two sets of musicians (Horses Brawl, meaning Laura and André) and Ana Silvera. Horses Brawl came via Andy, though they had performed in Wymondham before, and Ana came via Kate.
The cinema has a bar at the back on a raised part of the auditorium. One step down is the main floor with tables and chairs, then there is a narrow raised stage just before the old cinema curtains. There is a faint David Lynch flavour to the whole which is rather attractive. Above the main floor a disco ball can be made to spin. As Angus, one of the poets in the audience said, it would make an excellent wrestling venue.
Horses Brawl started us off, then we had the five poets at about 10 minutes each, maybe a little more, then Ana at the keyboard and singing. A fifteen minutes interval was enough to get the drinks, but it was late, so for the second half the poets read just one poem each, followed by Horses Brawl. After that it was free for all for about forty minutes, with Ana coming back on to sing a song and a number of us doing a one poem turn, Tim doing a rapid fire Eminem.
The audience was about forty people which looks OK even in a cinema hall. The evening went down very well, though afterwards I thought we should have done as I do with the UEA readings. With five poets, three before the interval, two after, except in this case music-poetry (3 poets)-music-interval-poetry (2 poets)-music would have been better.
But these were all outstanding talents, all knowing how to handle themselves on stage, all different - Tim's ethereal, touching, beautifully made love poems, Julia's evocations of a commune life underscored with regret and irony, Andy's dreamlike landscapes and movements, Tom's wit and lyricism, very firm, clear and subtle now, and Kate with her shimmery broken complex narrative of voices that register then move on. It was a rich palette and the music was great. I'd certainly go to see both Horses Brawl and Ana Silvera, different as they are, if they were in the area, the first with their medieval and folk music on versions of old instruments, and Ana with her self-composed lyrics and part cabaret / part concert songs.
These were on the whole younger poets, poets near the beginning of their careers, but poetry does not belong to any age group or any social class. As I have often argued, poetry is hard wired into the human mind and body. Being in the presence of real poems is a haunting experience for anyone, in whatever sphere.
Perhaps we might say that a poetry reading between friends is, at best, a cross between magic and entertainment. Once given a defined audience the reading becomes a social act involving both magic and entertainment. The social act imposes an obligation that may be satisfied in many different ways. The context is always important. A secret cinema is ideal. There are possibilities here for the future. I would love to see an evening of music, poetry and conjuring, or acts with echoes of circus - a juggler, a tumbler, a dancer.
Perhaps we could get round to that.
from Twin Peaks