Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poetry at the Great Grog - October 2008 Report

I felt a little nervous before Poetry at the Great Grog on Sunday evening, but it went really well. Eleanor Livingstone was MC and began by reading one of Alice Howlett’s poems, Before Dawn – Alice had been due to read but had to call off through ill-health. I liked how Eleanor did the MC job and I was thinking I might have different MCs each month. I’d quite like to get a proper organising committee together for these events. Not so much because of the amount of work (which isn’t all that much, to be honest), but I feel awkward in the role. It confers a degree of power (e.g. as to who gets to read and who doesn’t) that I don’t want to have. One person was needed to get the event off the ground, but I think it’s best if more people come on board now. So if anyone is interested, let me know…

I was on first and read mainly from the forthcoming The Opposite of Cabbage, due from Salt next year. I imagine they’re not always the easiest of poems to take in at a reading, but I made my best attempt to communicate. My setlist:

1. Edinburgh in Summer
2. Everyone Will Go Crazy
3. Derrida
4. Holiday at the New Butlins
5. Fallen Villages of the North
6. Concentration
7. Hospital
8. The Preacher’s Ear
9. Preparations for the Final Hour

In place of Alice Howlett, five people each read a poem written by someone else and explained why they liked it. Colin Will, Elizabeth Gold (halfway down the linked page), Ryan van Winkle, Claire Askew, and Margaret Christie took part. They read interesting and entertaining stuff – a success, I think.

Many people know of Hamish Whyte mainly as editor at Mariscat Press and it’s true that Hamish has put a lot into Scottish poetry with his editing and publishing activities. A new collection is rare for him, but there’s one due on 8th December from Shoestring Press. On the evidence of Sunday evening, it’s a must-read. Hamish reads without somersaults and pyrotechnics. He has a quiet, but assured voice. In other words, he lets the poems do the talking. I thought he had some terrific stuff in his set, even better than I had expected.

People had told me that Kei Miller was a brilliant reader and I now know what they mean. It was one of the best readings we’ve ever had at the Great Grog. Part of it is in the sheer quality of the poems, part of it in the musical sonics, part of it in his presence when reading and the connection he makes with the audience. Fantastic.


Claire Askew said...

Rob - I'd be happy to get on board, either with MC-ing or the organising side of things. Just let me know if you need any help.

I thought Sunday night was absolutely brilliant - I loved Kei Miller, he really lit up the room with his poems and his presence. He was one of the most engaging readers I think I've ever seen... glad you invited him.
It was also really interesting to hear the poems other people picked to read in the impromptu open-mic-type situation. Looking forward to seeing more from Colin W next month.

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BarbaraS said...

So glad it went well for you, Rob and for all the readers. I'd love to have heard Kei Miller - sounds fab! Hope your bruises are fading now!

Ms Baroque said...

Rob, I'd have loved to be there fro that - as you may remember I reviewed Kei's latest book last winter and was impressed by his drive, among other things - I can just imagine what he's like when he's reading.

Sounds like the rest of the evening went well too - tis series is well-established now, isn't it! Well done you. And I love your title.