Singh Songs and other poems beginning with S

6 Oct

You know that moment when you finally get what a poem means and then you realise – aghast – that every time previously you’ve heard the poet read it you’ve been smiling faintly or staring at the floor and then you realise IT’S A SAD POEM. This happened to me before when I submitted a poem celebrating my newly born daughter for critique to a writers group at the same time as another writer submitted a poem about her dead baby son and I still didn’t realise until critiquing it at the group when suddenly the penny dropped.

So that’s what happened yesterday at V Formation – the penultimate Thursday event of Poetry Swindon Festival – with Stephen Daniels’ poem, Wordslast. You can read Wordslast in the Swindon Poetry Festival/Richard Jefferies Museum brochure (or you can buy his pamphlet, Tell Mistakes I Love Them.) I’m not going to help you out if you don’t get it. Just don’t smile as he reads it, unless it’s a sad one.

The final event of day one of Poetry Swindon Festival could have been mistaken for a pop concert. What other poetry festival has whooping and cheering?

The first wholehearted cheering and clapping was given to local girl Olivia Tuck who sung four songs over the course of the evening. What I wouldn’t give for a voice like that? At least my little toe.

Then followed the three poets in residence, Daljit Nagra, Tania Hershman and Jacqueline Saphra (who is also writing right here on the Festival Chronicle). Daljit is also Radio Four’s poet in res, but I can guess which one is the most fun. He read us his GCSE poem – which doesn’t mean he’s pulled one out of a youthful exercise book, but that Singh Song is on the exam syllabus. How weird to see questions about your poem which say, ‘what does the poet mean when..?’ Daljit’s work is super fun, his ‘cover version’ of the Ramayana – an Indian epic poem – full of ‘tender flesh parts’ and ‘indestructabilityness’ and ‘gurgling with collywobbles’ and ‘hard core prayers’. But I hope to never encounter a ‘psycho-creche’.

So before yesterday I don’t think I’d been aware of the artist Man Ray (don’t despise me) but now Elephant’s Footprint introduced me to his films (see previous post) and Jacqueline Saphra introduced me – via her verse – to his lover, one time model and photographer Lee Miller. Lee was the only woman to photograph behind the lines in World War II, documenting the liberation of concentration camps. She got back in front of the camera to have her picture taken in Hitler’s bath, shortly after his suicide.

As well as other poems, Jacqueline read one called Spunk.

If I wanted the cheap pun – and to be honest I always do – I would write that Tania Hershman experimented with poems and short stories in her evening’s segment. The pun element would be the science-inspiration of her work and the cheap bit would be that she’s been doing this sort of thing, short story writing, for a couple of decades. She’s new-ish to poetry (or perhaps, finally admitting she writes poetry) and, like Jacqueline, is in the happy position of having two books out this year; Tania’s are one of each, short prose and poems.

If people need an uplifting mantra as a poem (see previous post on the Poetry Lecture), then consider the last lines of Tania’s closing piece: ‘We feel wanted / We feel loved / We feel heard.’

Written by Louisa Davison

V Formation – Poets of V Press and Readings took place at the Richard Jefferies Museum, 5 October 2017, as part of Poetry Swindon Festival.

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