Deathcap mushroom babies and other stories

7 Oct
Poetry Primers

From left: Ben Bransfield, Cynthia Miller, Jane Commane (Nine Arches Press), Marvin Thompson. Bottom right: Tony Hillier

Regarding the quality of Poetry Swindon’s hosts, as I’ve written before, if you want a note-free host who knows more about the poet’s work than their own mother, Sam is your man. He makes the kind of celebratory introduction that forces an advance apology from the poet. And not forgetting Poetry Swindon’s finger-clicking and foot-stomping founder and leader, Hilda. I remember when Hilda could barely stand in front of a crowd. These days she has comic timing that would cause a stand-up to ask if she ran performance workshops and encourages us to encourage the poets with the clapping, cheering and whooping usually reserved for slams.

Yesterday, Tony was the cheerleader for Poetry Swindon Festival’s Poetry Primers, who had not a droney ‘poetry voice’ between them. I wasn’t sure at first about Ben Bransfield’s slow pace but then realised this enabled the absorption of unfamiliar words, phrases and lines, when the norm is for whole poems to gust by on a gale of inattention. One memorable poem owned the line ‘as you do’ as Ben contemplated fatherhood of a deathcap mushroom baby (I’m guessing in the vein of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’). Later he riffed on Scrooge and Jacob Marley as lovers which makes total sense if you think of it in the context of waking up drunk and imagining randy ghosts.

Marvin Thompson’s pieces about kids and lovers and ex-pat Jamaican soldier fathers were haunted with the charcoal outline of Grenfell Tower. He nicked the TV show Friends episodic openers, ‘The One in Which…’, as titles of a series of poems and asked the universal parenting question about forcing ones kids to listen to ones choice of car stereo tuneage: ‘Is this upbringing or brainwashing?’

Cynthia Miller’s poetry explored her Malaysian-Chinese-but still All American beefcake cowboy father heritage. Other poems celebrated and explored exciting moments in history and difficult news; migration and the meaning of Home and ‘graffiti evictions’.

Meanwhile, outside the Tent Palace garden venue, Elephant’s Footprint invited us to stay on by temporarily graffiti-ing the Richard Jefferies Museum with projected verse.

Written by Louisa Davison.

Poetry Primers is a talent spotting scheme from The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press, and the poets performed 6 October 2017.

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