7 Oct

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The night before at the Ruth Stone House Party – also featuring lots of poets – the intros seem to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and basically a long list of publications.

Thankfully the point of Quiet Compere was for the audience to decide if the 10 poets x 10 minutes were any good by listening to their poems. And so our first half host, Sarah L Dixon, read a couple of her poems and introduced poets by way of their name only.

Sarah’s The Source was probably the muckiest poem I’ve heard about a marriage breakup – a horrid smell leading to a cloth in drawer for a collection of, ahem, male excretions.

Julia Webb’s work demonstrated it isn’t just Poetry Swindon’s Domestic Cherry that can publish the domestic (yay). Her prose poetry is about family, the good and the bad and untidily both. I don’t know if she read this one but I saw it in her collection today – “He asked Daddy if he had ever heard THE WORD OF JEHOVAH…and [Daddy] rubbed his hands together like right before he carves the turkey, and he said I DON’T BELIEVE I HAVE – STEP RIGHT INSIDE GENTLEMEN.” (The Callers from Julia’s collection, Bird Sisters) and this reminds me of me when the handsome young Mormons used to call after I’d graduated from my theology degree and was living back home and also my Mum when the spammers from India call, about the problem with her operating system.

Anna-May Laugher told us ‘a cartoon mother shouldn’t look down’ and how she sent money for her grandchildren’s food and mascara for her daughter.

Susan Utting, also on family members, spoke of imaginary sister’s eyes, her daughters and – a woman after my own heart – read an Ode to Shoes.

Sam came down from the poetry pedestal and sat on a pouffe, boy band-style, to tell us, in verse, how he may one day have to leave Swindon and how he’d like to be remembered.

Angie Belcher described the Tent-Palace of the Delicious Air as ‘student digs crossed with a happy seance’, then – as a new 40-year-old – performed a comedy poem about reaching 50 and keeping hold of a youthful aspect, to a tent where half the audience had already passed that milestone.

In contrast with Kim Moore’s My People, Angie read, ‘I come from…

Festival director Hilda was the compere for the second half and the electricity blew when she read her vibrator poem where a neighbour gave her a vibrator and told her to STICK IT IN YOUR PANTS (the poem could be a Cohen Brothers-style truth but the electricity was as-it-happened, no joke, though we laughed, a lot.)

Carrie Etter told us, ‘Sometimes I spoke of the sun and the rain as if I held them in each hand’. I’m still processing that line.

Nick Lovell took us right away from vibrators and straight to the Divine Winds of
Hiroshima and three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi washed up dead on a beach (I meet you where the tide dies), before introducing us to Bewildered Nick in the style of a greyhound commentary, where Death the dog always wins, even in a photo finish.

Cristina Newton brought several weighty-looking tomes of her work before discarding most of them, spending what felt like much of her ten minutes talking about the poetry, but treated us to an extended metaphor of the kneecap as a unique part of the body, inspired by the recent discovery of the remains of playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca in a mass Spanish grave. (I’ve since Googled this and wonder how it would play out in England – Spain has a historical memory law to locate and dig up the 114,000 people disappeared in the civil war of the 1930s and the current government thinks this shouldn’t be funded with public money. England doesn’t have this problem, by which I mean it doesn’t shit on its own doorstep.)

Stephen Daniels wanted to ‘tell mistakes I love them’ and managed to get through ‘When I accused you of being dead’, in tribute to a friend who died young.

Maurice Spillane read his wives’ poems, which I thought were poems his wives had written, but it turned out each of his three long relationships had a poem dedicated to them. And after, he read the poem that had been turned into a poetry film with Elephant’s Footprint, Rocket Tom, about the renaming of Tom, their new dog; Tom was the name of his wife’s dead son.



Quiet Compere took place at the Richard Jefferies Museum in the Tent-Palace of the Delicious Air, 7 October 2016, part of Poetry Swindon Festival.

Chronicle written by Louisa Davison

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