Swindon Festival of Poetry – Mabel’s House Party and ‘The Joy of Sex’

8 Oct

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‘Odes to Joy!’ and the joy of sex was the theme for Mabel’s House Party though sadness, messiness, uncomfortable and baggage sex was also in abundance.

It’s been forty years since the book, The Joy of Sex, was published with its quirky style and fun approach to lovemaking so Domestic Cherry – the people behind Mabel’s House Party at Artsite Swindon – held a competition with the book as its theme. Saturday night we heard the winners.

It was great to see the venue was completely packed – the only seats left when we arrived were those tiny ones they use in primary schools. Artsite was set up like a night time cafe with feather covered lamps, bottles of wine and of course the Domestic Cherry cups of tea.

There were moments of comedy. Jill: ‘She is less subtle / Goes straight for his buckle’. Judy: ‘I wish I’d misspent my youth.’ Peter made his rhyme out of all the pet and slang names for genitals. Another poet from Ireland read The Tandem – how to decide who cycles at the back and observe the others wiggling posterior. Jo Bell – just named as the first canal poet laureate by The Canal & River Trust – gave us her observations on ‘Coming’ or should that be ‘Cumming’?

Jo Peters’s winning poem, ‘Afterwards’, was, she observed, appropriately post-coital as she was the last of the competitors to perform. “I’ve never won anything in my life!” she said, before going on to also win some Domestic Cherry special tat in the raffle.

We enjoyed a song for Swindon (see previous post) composed by a visiting Australian who felt the town deserved one. After being handed a ukulele by performer Linda Lee, he encouraged us to clap and join in with chorus, which went down with much enthusiasm.

After a few numbers by judge Wendy Clein, poets Jo Bell and Martin Malone read thirty minutes of their work in progress – a narrative piece about two forty-somethings getting together amidst the baggage of previous marriages, children and stuff that accumulates after nearly half a century of life.

As the evening drew on with the closeness of hot, moist bodies and sometimes quiet voices of poets lulling me to sleep, it felt like I was in the warmth and gloom of a womb.

Given the cafe / cabaret set up of the evening I would have enjoyed a few more breaks rather than two long halves. Chatting to your fellow table dwellers and the performing poets was a lovely part of the evening and fifteen to twenty minutes of poetry is enough to digest in one go for me, especially in a womb-like atmosphere.

Wendy Clein owned up to not much enjoying reading about sex, which made her a strange choice as the judge of the competition. Was this the reason for more poetic innuendo, less louche and more cosy that was more in keeping with pre-Joy of Sex and between the pages of the Woman’s Realm? At times it was like listening to a mum give you that embarrassing adolescent sex prep talk. I would have expected a night of erotic poetry to have sent me and my husband off to the nearest loos (or at least neither of you fall asleep as soon as you get into bed) however the evening was strangely unarousing.

One of the rudest parts of the evening was when I arrived back at the car to find someone had fingered ‘Clean Me’ and a penis on the back of my dirty little Mini.

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