Friday, 7 October 2011

National Poetry Day, Tuesday 6th October 2011.

Yes, I lied. This post isn't going to be the one I said I would write in my last post, because, well, just because. Instead, for my 500th Potato Farm post (yes, that's right, 500), I'm going to write a little bit about my experiences of National Poetry Day yesterday. I'll try to keep it brief, because, as I said in an intro to a poetry performance I did recently, who likes poetry? No-one likes poetry.

("My experiences" makes me sound like such a tosser, but I couldn't think how to word it better.)

Well, firstly I suppose it started with me writing some drafts in Tate Modern as I was waiting for everything at the Southbank Centre to kick off.
Actually, no. The day kicked off with me walking down a street called The Cut and seeing a man buying a doner kebab at about 9.30am, followed a couple of minutes later by someone in Prét A Manger feeling my hand and saying "Wow... You have a cold heart." (Yes, she definitely did say heart, not hand.) But after that I suppose it started with me writing some drafts in Tate Modern as I was waiting for everything at the Southbank Centre to kick off.
I like Tate Modern. I didn't just write stuff there, I had a look round first obviously. Tate Modern has one of my favourite paintings in it, Picasso's "Seated Nude."
I'm one of those people who likes art but knows cock all about it, so it's probably due to a lack of imagination that I always end up going to Tate Modern. Also, that thing that makes people tend to eat the same thing when you eat out at or get takeaway from a certain place regularly. That "Well, I know I like that, so I'll just have that again," feeling. I suppose that's covered in the phrase "Lack of imagination" really, isn't it.

So, yes. Worked on some poems of my own, then went to Southbank Centre for 1pm to see Michael Rosen kick things off, as the first section was aimed more at children (though there were a fair few adults there too, not just me). Michael Rosen, for those who don't know, used to be the Children's Laureate, and it's easy to see why. He is extremely good at performing to and engaging children. It helps that his poems are very funny too.
Anyway, I don't want this to turn into some sort of review. But there were four names I did note in my phone, of poets I hadn't seen/read before who I thought were good.
Glyn Maxwell:- Oh, that's bad. I can't remember Glyn Maxwell now, but I must've thought he was good, otherwise I wouldn't have made a note of his name (and no, I wouldn't have made a note of him because I didn't like him. I saw a poet who I didn't like, whose poems were pretty much all about the same thing and were delivered in a really dull durr-durr-durr-durr-durr manner, and I didn't make a note of his name, so there).
Catherine Labiran:- Now, I do remember this woman. She was introduced as a new, upcoming young London poet, and I remember thinking when she started her first poem "Oh God, she's just going to sound tediously like about 90% of all other modern London poets, isn't she?" BUT, after the set up of the first four lines, she turned the poem on it's head and was really, really good and didn't fall into the boring traps of so many other London poets. She actually had something really interesting to say about women's perception of themselves and said it in a really engaging way.
(Didn't I say I didn't want this to be a "review"? I guess sometimes it can't be helped.)
I had a similar feeling about Joelle Taylor when she started. That of "Oh God, here's yet another joyless social commentary. Quick, where's the knife to cut my ears off, coz I don't think I can stand yet another droning London poem." I mean, if I were from London this may be interesting, but I'm not so it's kind of like when you have friends who are younger than you who say the same things that you were saying years ago as if they're new and insightful when in fact what they don't realise, and what you didn't realise when you were that age and saying them, is that it's just the same old rehashed, clichéd annoying arse that everyone's been saying for years and years and no, it really isn't interesting to someone who has "been there and done that" as it were. BUT, then about halfway through her first poem, she also managed to start saying something genuinely interesting and in enough of a different way to make you think, "Oh, okay. Yeah, that IS shit. I'm with you now."
The last name I wrote down was Jo Bell. Jo Bell is a well known name in "The poetry world" but I had never read any of her work before. I definitely will be now though, as she was absolutely brilliant.

Rounding things off were three poets I am already a fan of, who were all great. Jo Shapcott, Jackie Kay and Simon Armitage.
Jo Shapcott was a "Consumate professional" as they say (I must admit that I don't entirely know what that means, but it feels appropriate to use it here), delivering her poems flawlessly, but without any sense of perfectionism. It was more that she seemed to be really enjoying being on stage in front of us, which was nice.
Likewise, Jackie Kay seemed to be having the time of her life. She was hilarious. Really fun delivery of her poems and genuinely funny banter in between. Looked like she wasn't even trying. My highlight of the day, for sure.
Simon Armitage by contrast, very dry, but then that's what you've got to expect from him and you either like it or you don't (NOW who's saying the same things that have been going round for years and years, Axl, HMMMMM?). I know people who don't. I do, and I enjoyed him.

The only bad thing was that the Poetry Takeaway was there and EVERY time I walked past there was a long queue, so I didn't get a poem, which was annoying as John Osbourne was on the stall yesterday and I think he's brilliant. I really wanted a poem by him.
Really nice to see a unique and such a good idea as that taking off though. The Poetry Takeaway really is a very cool thing.

AND seeing as it was a Thursday, what better way than to finish off the day than by going to The Roebuck pub in Borough, for my favourite poetry night, "Bang Said The Gun."
This was the third time I've been and I've loved it every time. It is the most fun and atmospheric poetry night I've been to. Those guys really know what they're doing. It ALMOST makes me wish I lived in London so I could go every week. Seriously, I actually like it that much.
AND one of the poets performing made me cry. I told him he nearly made me cry, but that was a lie. There were tears in my eyes and on my cheeks. His name was Oli Foster, and he did a poem that really resonated with how I'm feeling about things in my life at the moment. It was one of those "Oh my God, it's as if they're speaking directly to ME," moments. I am envious of his delivery too. He seemed to get every single word pitch perfect, and could flick between feelings instantly. He was my other highlight of the day.
The featured act was a guy called Tshaka Campbell, who was good, but did slip a little bit into an "All women are goddesses and all men are sacks of faeces" mentality, which was a little annoying.
I entered the open mic contest. Didn't win, but I don't mind. It's just fun to be part of it. Genuinely.

And then home. It was a good day. Despite my "Cold heart."

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