The sky shalt never be gunmetal

9 Oct

At the post-lunch reading slot at Poetry Swindon yesterday, young local poet and singer Olivia Tuck stepped in for a poorly Camilla Nelson.

Now while I’m sure Camilla would have been great (because Poetry Swindon has impeccable taste), Olivia made the most of her surprise moment. Funny and revealing, Olivia tells the trials and tribulations of youth, with a backdrop of in and out-patient mental health services and dark fantasies like Changeling. Today, chronicler Milo age 11 – still hanging around after the Children’s Open Mic, chilling on a bean bag and catching the reading – can still recall much of Olivia’s poem about her 12-year-old self.

She was in great company with two 2017 highly commended Forward Prize poets, Rishi Dastidar and Jessica Mookherjee.

Jessica ‘stole my heart’ says host Stephen Daniels by way of an introduction. Jessica shares with us that her poem The Swell was inspired by David Cameron’s prime ministerial visit to Tunbridge Wells during the floods of 2015. The former PM remindered her of the uselessness of her dad as her mother’s waters broke. Other poetic thoughts include ‘love sometimes eats us up’, the trials and tribulations of securing British citizenship, the phenomena of meeting God, and Mother’s Day when you’re a woman without children.

Rishi shows off his advertising agency background (yes, he says, he’s a ‘handmaiden of capitalism’) with inspired self-promotion and killer last lines. Host Stephen admires the Spotify playlist associated with Rishi’s collection, while Rishi admits he had a wrist watch made which was decorated with the collection’s cover image but forgets to wear it.

I laughed at A Shark Comes to Dinner – ‘He looked over and tried to drool attractively’ – who hasn’t had that? I considered the idea of the shipping forecast as ‘the Nation’s secular hymn’. His Forward Prize bait was a monologue plea over the 2015 election vitriol – Conservative voters are not ‘baby eaters’ and tells his fellow left-wingers to ‘put some fizz in your piety’. The philosophical paradox of Theseus’ Ship is, of course, explored through the comings and goings of the members of noughties pop group Sugababes, and Licking Stamps is an ‘exotic and mundane’ exploration of the sex between George Romney and Lady Hamilton.

And poets, never invoke Rishi’s ire by describing the sky as Gunmetal – ‘The sky is f**king awesome and doesn’t need a weapons-based simile.’

Written by Louisa Davison

Rishi Dastidar, Jessica Mookherjee and Olivia Tuck read at Poetry Swindon Festival, Richard Jefferies Museum, 9 October 2017.

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