Artwords Open Mic – You’re Meat, Book

5 Oct

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Yesterday evenings lively and well-attended Artwords Poetry Open Mic festival special opened with a story from festival organiser Hilda.

Donned in her Mabel Watson persona accompanied by Barry ‘the teeth’ Dicks she megaphoned poetry at Sascos’ Cafe in Swindon’s Brunel Shopping Centre that afternoon. Apparently this was too subversive for the security guards who refused to allow them out into the precinct: ‘No poetry outside the cafe. No permission for poets in the Brunel Centre.’ Or something. So, poetry okay with tea and cake, but not other retail therapy.

First poet Bethany Pope (who will be instructing me in the way of the Sestina poetry form later today) was inspired by a death of a rat for her piece. (This is the second rat death poem today. I must write my own.) She was accompanied by the rhythmic thunder of dancers’ feet from Swindon Dance above the Central Library’s poetry space.

Now, not to have a moan but – on the subject of noise pollution etc – I’m not impressed with the space. Poetry Swindon have jazzed it up for sure with lots of books, a poetry tree, a bust of The Bard, a bar always helps (a little too much bar for some though, if you know what I mean) and it’s nice enough when there’s natural light. But at night there’s two horrid strip lights which illuminate the performers from behind, obscuring their faces (and making my photography damn difficult) and a box of electrics whirring away. It feels like we’ve been shoved in the basement with the spiders. The upstairs balcony has much more atmosphere.

Anyway, it was great to hear Miles Deakon perform ‘Cutman’, a superhero poem. Avid followers of this blog (okay so that’s just me then) will remember a conversation I had at the Swindon Festival of Literature about superhero poetry see the PS at

He also performed a number ‘Poetry Snob’ and then invited us to guess who it was. Hmmm…

Jill Sharp amused us with a comment on ‘exorbitantly’ priced poetry workshops in ‘Tuition with Baguette Lunch’.

Michael Scott’s poem ‘Holding Richard’s Hand’ started funny, descended into darkness, before leaving us in the light.

Chris McCabe replaced guest poet Siddhartha Bose, reading from his latest anthology ‘The Restructure’ inspired by the birth of his son (now five) and wife, skipping between parenting cliches and early dating experiences: “I still don’t know what my name would sound like on your breathe in the dark.”

Toddlers are fertile ground for random thoughts. His poem, ‘You’re Meat, Book’ was based on the words his son uttered to a book at nursery. He could have meant, however, ‘Your meet, book’?

Cremated remains described as ‘bone sherbet’ is going to hang around in my psyche too.

Second guest poet Tom Chivers began with a poem quoting Coalition leaders out of context. This is apt as Tom was pretty good on the rhetoric himself, giving me lots of fun sound bites. He’s been working with Climate Change organisation Cape Farewell, writing about our ‘Yeti-like carbon footprint’. He was asked by the Daily Mail to write something fluffy about the fading ice sheets and the royals so he wrote them a poem about polar ice caps by way of double entendres about Kate Middleton’s recent exposé. They didn’t use it. It was too abstract.

The second half featured twelve local poets and drumming by Robert Stredder. They had to speed through with one poem each but this made for a tight snappy affair with quick fire mixture of styles and subject matter – no long involved explanations and the like. I especially liked George Moorhead’s line: ‘Went down the wrong leg of the trousers of time.’

As I left the library I found Marlborough poet Neil Brooks outside, sneaking a fag. One of two random young chaps were riffing their own rhymes to him and they were pretty good. We’re hoping to see them at next month’s open mic. Chatting to Calne poet John Bentley on the way to the car park – I’d met and heard John’s funny and cutting poetry a while back at another writer’s group – he said: ‘I’ve been in a poetry wasteland for ages – and then I come here.’

There you go. Swindon is officially a poetic hub.

For more photos see

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