I had a good time at the Poetry and Jazz event in Linlithgow yesterday evening. The hall was like a large living room, tastefully decked out with a vast fleet of candles, low tables, and comfy sofas. About 30(?) people crammed into the room.
Phil Melstrom started off with a short jazz guitar set, and he performed between each of the poets. When I watch people like Phil playing, I’m reminded both that I play guitar after a fashion, and also why I never made a career out of it. He made it all seem so effortless - Miles Davis standards? Herbie Hancock numbers? A spot of improvisation at lightning speed? Chords that look impossible to stretch anywhere near? He could do it without any problem. Really enjoyable.
I kicked off for the poets. I began with a couple of gently surreal new poems about angels and window cleaners (respectively), then a couple of older ones that had a jazz theme, then a few from The Clown of Natural Sorrow, and finished off with a newish one about war, a Davide Rondoni translation, and In the Last Few Seconds. People seemed to enjoy the set.
Douglas Briton was a good performer. His poems were rhythmic, self-effacing and mainly witty, although he had a few darker poems in there as well, and several on imaginary conversations between characters of the Bible.
Andrew Philip finished off the evening with a fine reading. His poems nearly always have an impact that never seems contrived or forced in any way. The writing is subtle and powerful.
Certainly, the evening was a good advert for variety, as each poet on show had a completely different style of writing and performing. So something for everyone, and hopefully an event that will bear repeating in years to come.