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Verse, Varied and Vigorous: Poetry at the Adelaide

6 June 2017

 

Poetry at the Adelaide

An Inauguration of Performance Poetry

Performance Poetry

at The Adelaide, Teddington 4th June

Review by Mark Aspen

Here’s a bit of prejudice: poets are consumptive young men with huge floppy bow-ties waning in garrets.  No, no, no, we mean performance poets.  Ah, they are shy lady librarians reciting quietly between the bookshelves … or are they musical Caribbeans?  Oh, no, they are depressed Northern academics … or was it horny-handed farmers well-grounded with their livestock?

You see, until now it has been hard to tell, for poets in and around Teddington have kept themselves well hidden.  Poetry has been one of the few art forms without a wide exposure hereabouts.  That has now been redressed with the formation of Performance Poetry, an ad-hoc group formed at the initiative of Anne Warrington, a local RADA actress, and Bob Sheed, who has been running poetry workshops over a number of years.  Sunday saw the inaugural meeting of Performance Poetry, in the convivial surroundings of The Adelaide at Teddington.

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Poets are, we discovered, from diverse backgrounds and experiences.  None, as far as we discovered are librarians, shy or otherwise, or farmers, horny-handed or otherwise.  However, they had a wonderfully interesting and entertaining range of subjects and moods.  Some were whimsical and nostalgic, some were romantic and philosophical, some were descriptive and very many were brilliantly humorous.

Some of the contributing poets included members of Bob Sheed’s The Luther Poets, a poetry working group.  An inspiration-triggering technique that they used was to start with a key-word.  So we had a number of poems on the themes, “outside”, “fashion” or “indecision”.

 

 

“Outside” inspired Heather (Montford)’s nostalgic recollections of children being free to play outside after the Second World War, Fran’s landscape portrait around Kingston, Pat’s Kew Gardens and (drawing from her experiences as a teacher) the perversity of young children who will find every excuse not to go outside into the playground, except when it is snowing.  Graham took the outside theme to extremes, outer space in fact, musing on the beauty of space … but with a twist.

Children did feature in quite a few of the poems, Anne reflecting on how children can be unintentionally cruel.  Bill, the church verger, whom they taunted as “the old geezer”, became warmly remembered after his death with the fond soubriquet, “Geezer Bill”.    Her reflective mood continued in a duet with Bob, Duchess, about a grand elderly lady, now past her best in a nursing home, acted out by Anne, suitably clad in a moth-eaten fox-fur stole.  Grandly passing orders to “her” gardener in confident aristocratic manner, we discover that, before the deprivations of dementia, she was in fact the landlady of The Duchess pub.  It was a sad triumph of pathos.

And on the subject of pubs, Pat introduced a piece of protest nostalgia that elicited murmers of agreement.  Why is it when a pub has had a name established for centuries, do new licencees feel the need to change it to something different (that everyone hates)?  So a real traditional name is changed into a plastic pastiche of a “real” traditional name.

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Bob combined two themes of “fashion” and “father” into a satirical poem: a description of the narrator’s father, a portrait sculptor who against his better judgement agrees to create a bust of Tony Blair, and chooses anthracite as his medium.  Bob has quite a biting sense of humour, and in his retelling of the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, has the fate of the hapless Humpty consequent upon his being a lover of the Queen.

Heather (Moulson) brought some well-studied realism to her trio of poems, the cynical verse, Beautician, whose work is only skin deep; Evelyn, a warm epitaph to a deceased friend; and Babysitter, which ironically reveals the subject’s true motives.

Heather (Montford), who is also an artist, put Black on her poetic easel, a study in monochrome, Rembrandt’s skilfully nuanced use of the colour, its association with negative concepts, but its real contribution to the palette as a colour of strength and positivity.

Melissa also had well studied poems on tragic, reflective and philosophical subjects.  There was a study of the duties of a soldier in a war, “many keys but no deeds”; a piece considering the now dented armour of chivalry; and the absorptive poem, To Sir with Love. 

By way of contrast, there was plenty of humour.  Graham came back with verses describing how difficult it was to find rhymes for Tintoretto, a task that had exercised him during a visit to Venice.  However the master of comic verse was Robin.  First he had a dig at political correctness, with a story about a worker at the Civic Centre, who ticked all the boxes with Equal Opportunities legislation by being a deprived, multiple trans-gender … green Martian!  Taking up the theme of “indecision”, Robin then hilariously described a husband and wife in the marital bedroom, preparing for a night out, a “bit of a do”, and the age-old problem of what to wear.  Finally, his spooky verse had plenty of scary twists and turns, but was really gripping (where it hurts).

Using the unlikely vehicle of a haiku to reminder us that this inaugural meeting of Performance Poetry was taking place on Whit Sunday, Keith shared some thoughts about the perception of time.   The awe that the Apostles must have felt in receiving the Spirit at Pentecost was undoubtedly in a moment when time stood still for them.  Taking the idea of time standing still to the romanticism of lovers fearing his pain of separation, he read Louis McNiece’s poem Meeting Point in which “time was away and somewhere else” for two lovers in 1939 about to be separated by war.  Keith was the only contributor to read a published poem, but then followed this with his own, Our Room at Noon, which was on a similar theme.

As Keith had pointed out, the contrasting consciousness of time is that of “how time flies when you are enjoying yourselves” and everyone agreed that the two hours of varied verse, rich rhyme and personal poetry vanished very quickly.  (Helped a little with fare from The Adelaide.)

Mark Aspen

June 2017

Photography by Graham Harmes

 

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