More than pancakes (I take mine old school with lemon juice and sugar) I'm looking forward to hearing Roy Bayfield read from his new publication Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places on (Pancake) Tuesday night at Edge Hill University's Arts Centre. To someone who loves walking, especially with my family and our two dogs, poems offering thoughts on walking are of particular interest. I’m also intrigued by the description ‘mythogeographical’ - can’t wait to find out more!
Details of the event here
The Desire Paths reading takes place on Shrove Tuesday and there are references to Easter in Roy Bayfield’s book of poems Bypass Pilgrim which I read back in 2010. In his introduction he describes this collection of poems as ‘a gift, love-letter, apology, self-portrait, account, waystation on a journey towards writing other things, and escape plan.’ After I’d read it in 2010 I showed Bypass Pilgrim to a relative who’d recently had a heart bypass - as they read, from the first page, they frequently nodded and smiled - that’s it exactly. It was good, they said, to find that someone else had had a similar experience, and had written about it.
‘Outpatient Appointment’ in particular reminds me of taking my Nan (pre-2010) to Broadgreen Hospital for her post-op check:
None of us had been brave
enough to come in person,
at least not in
During those pre-op visits the consultant had very much included me in his explanations - aware that anyone facing this operation (a triple bypass in my Nan’s case) does well to maintain their capacity to listen, being overwhelmed with the fear of the procedure they are facing and everything else that’s bound up in that. My Nan’s operation went ahead without a hitch and after a recovery time, she was much better as a result. Reading through Bypass Pilgrim again today renews my sense of her journey and how brave she, and all those others are.
On Friday I watched the brilliant performance by Geraldine Monk and Alan Halsey here with my 13 year old niece - her immediate reaction was ‘Why can’t we have this poetry in school!’ Indeed, why not. Her encounter with poetry so far in secondary school has been Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Valentine’ which she described at the time as ‘weird, I didn’t get it’. A thirteen year old girl, especially one who lives with her brother and her dad, isn’t always into love poetry!
The Monk / Halsey performance, which might seem more unfamiliar to my niece as being a ‘poem’, grabbed her from the off. She certainly didn’t question it as a poem. There was something in their performance that she recognised, something that she connected with more than the theme of love - or onions! - in the Duffy piece.
Certainly for me the ‘call for papers’ that the Monk / Halsey performance begins with is a reminder that the Robert Sheppard Symposium is approaching (8th March at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk). There are a range of events (an exhibition, a symposium and evening of readings) which comprise this celebration of Robert Sheppard’s work. Details of events here.
Robert Sheppard's collaboration with Ian McMillan at the Leeds Enemies below.
I am fascinated by the use of the human voice as a musical instrument, its scope for making sound, particularly how the voice can be used in sound poetry. And I have been held by the collaboration between SJ Fowler and Nathan Walker at the Liverpool Enemies event as an intriguing instance of how voice can be used as sound -- and go beyond that. What follows is an account of my recollection of their performance in Liverpool on Saturday and my responses - immediate and considered -- to that. (I was sat on the front row).
In preparation Steven Fowler and Nathan Walker moved closer together, pulling in their microphones stands and standing with their shoes almost touching -- a merging of bodies? As their performance began, their mouths were moving but I couldn’t hear any sound. I began watching the movement of their lips closely to try to work out what they were saying. When sound did come, I was in the moment distracted by my interest in the technical aspects of their performance - the making of these sounds by a human, two human, voices, and the interaction between those voices. As I watched their faces, and listened, I was aware that their voices were making sounds which were highly emotive -- distress, hysteria, madness emerged from their mouths which had been, to begin with, moving, but making no sound. At times, to me, there were emotive elements to the sounds of their voices and in their facial expressions that created a sense of distress that was uncomfortable to watch, but their voices also at times provoked laughter from the audience.
That evening I wasn’t sure how to respond - beyond that emotional response I’d felt in the immediacy of their performance. There is more to sound poetry than just the sound made! As with other poems the Fowler Walker piece held something beyond the immediate feelings it evoked in my raw experience of it. There was something unresolved for me in that performance that I needed to, but hadn’t yet made sense of, something I hadn’t caught hold of . . .
The Fowler Walker performance came directly after Sandeep Parmar’s striking performance of poems based on a tarot card reading, including Trump and May ‘cards’. For me, something of the context of Parmar’s tarot card readings carried into the highly charged and emotionally ambivalent Fowler Walker performance. And it has been mulling over the effect of carrying over of a context of the current political climate into the Fowler Walker performance which has given me a sense I had been fumbling after; and which, for me, makes theirs an expressive vocalisation that was actually quite perfect.
This week I got another chance to collaborate with Patricia Farrell, this time for the Liverpool part of the Enemies North by Northwest tour. Patricia sent material for me to respond to, which had come out of her reading on women in the weaving industry in the 18th century onwards. I was immediately struck by the poignancy Patricia had created which was further concentrated in the short lines on the page.
I felt Patricia’s material called for a response in some form of song. I’m definitely not a singer and so this certainly took me out of my comfort zone. But, in my postgraduate research, I am working on musicality of language. So, here was a challenge that gave me a chance to explore how to get at the musicality in the sounds in language and in structures for my part of the collaboration.
Patricia and I performed our collaboration last night. Here’s a link to the performance www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKbh_gwM8Jg
Thanks to Patricia for creating such inspiring material to work from. And thanks to the organisers, Tom Jenks and SJ Fowler, and all the readers last night, for another very enjoyable evening of collaborative poetry.
In the early (?) stages of my practice performances at home I was told I sounded like the mice in Bagpuss! Here's a link to hear them sing 'We Will Wash It' www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVzAJbEkyyU