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Virtual Seventh

by on 13 May 2021

Maybe Soon

Virtual Seventh

Poetry Performance, On-Line, 9th May

Review by Thomas Forsythe  

The merry merry month of May has cheered that eclectic band of poets, Poetry Performance, with the possibility that it may soon bring the chance of returning from the internet back to real-life three-dimensional encounters in The Adelaide, its Teddington home.  Its latest on-line outing is inspired by the theme for the month, appropriately “May”. 

Where we once had saint’s days, we now have a “special” day it seems for everything.  (Apparently today is World Lawnmower Day.)  Clive Rowland, the Master of Ceremonies, reminded us (if we hithertofore even knew) that the day, the first Sunday in May, was World Laughter Day.

Picking up this point, there were quite a few poems with the light-hearted themes that mark this month.   Robin Clarke’s May I is a love poem, for this is the season when “a young man’s fancy…”   The young man’s seduction is hobbled by his shyness, but he carefully ask permission for each move.  But then again, as he admits, these words were “… never said. / They were just floating in my head”.   Fran Thurling’s one liner, “The Pink Cherry Blossom”  speaks succinctly for the season.   Jackie Howting’s thoughts went to May spent in Corfu with her A May Zing, so evocatively describing Greece in spring that you could almost hear the trizonia crickets singing and smell the oregano.

Pat Cammish went even further than Greece, since her May adventure was motorcycling to Africa:  as one does!   In Nature’s Palette, as she travels further and further south, she notices the change of hues and the increasing richness of the flowers in a series of beguiling similes.  However, back in England May evokes the maypole and she speaks of childhood memories of a maypole in Yorkshire in May Day, the “best day of year”, in spite of envying the May Queen when she was only one of her May Maiden attendants.    Elsewhere, Judith Blakemore Lawton with her sister were also May Girls, the advantages of which she says in her poem Happiness were hope, joy and… food.  Ken Mason in The Maypole was more sanguine about his experiences at the ends of the ribbons, whilst bravely admitting that his childhood memories go back to the 1930s, explaining with perceptive eloquence in The Now how each moment passes with greater speed than the last.

Whimsical nostalgia may have the lightness of spring flower, but for some May is a month tinged with sadness.   Carol Wain beautifully describes a visit to her late daughter’s grave in Oxford in Bloom, when the May rain can be “a gentle sign of grace”.  Equally moving is Barbara Lee’s May Things expressing family love in lockdown when a funeral has to be attended on-line.  In A Bluebell Walk, Ann Vaughn-Williams, walking with her husband after a serious illness when the question, “Shall we … ?” is answered, “We shall gladly”.   The pertinent sentiment, “Those who fail to bend may break” is conveyed by Trisha Broomfield in Gales in May.

Thus we are taken on pollen dust to other descriptions flora in spring.   Pratibha Castle, whose poetry has recently been highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Journal, articulately describes with neat and clear precision flowers coming into bloom in her poem Unfolding .  However, her triptych piece, South Downs loses that directness with a mannered vocabulary where words like “dryads”, “anoint” and “keening” seem to try a bit too hard to earn their keep.  In contrast, Andrew Evzona’s words in May do nothing for their living.   A clop-heavy delivery of the lazily scattered word “may” only serves to underline its redundancy, witness “we may leave the EU [with] Teresa May”.

Pierre de Ronsard

We did however, go to France, and still with flowers, to Pierre de Ronsard, the “Prince of Poets” who in the 1550s was prolific in praises in his amatory obsession of Marie (and others).  Connaire Kensit presented Ronsard’s Sonnet à Marie, both in the original French and in his own translation as Lady Gardener Sleeps Late.   This is quite a tour de force as not only are the names of all the birds and plants mentioned accurately, but Kensit keeps the timbre of the original including its rhythm and form. 

Birds were also featured in Greg Freeman’s Buzzards over West Byfleet, which references the Battle of Britain in a chiselled metaphor for freedom.   Changing mood from honour to humour, in his Don’t Take Cats for Granted animals of a different species appear … or rather they disappear.  Be warned, they “Will leave you” while the “wood pigeon triumphs” in his own new found freedom.

Humour is the undisputed territory of Heather Moulson, whose Sugar found her guiltily eating sweets.  The interval followed, so she may have been the cause of capitulations to temptation over the coffee pot.

Poetry Performance now follows the custom of presenting a featured poet to open the second half.  This time though we were indulged by not one but three featured poets, in what appeared to be a commercial break.   Lucy Lyrical, a musician turned publisher was introduced by Rowland as “no stranger to the literary salon”.  Indeed she has just published her third novel, Three Women, under her pen-name Lucy Tertia George. Set in Sicily in the 1920’s, it follows the travels, and travails, of the heroine Josephina from Syracuse to Palermo and thence to the USA.  Reading an extract from the book, Lucy Lyrical describes it as semi–autobiographical with inspiration from her Sicilian husband.  Lest a diversion into prose should seem ultra vires, Rowland reiterated a quote from Charles Baudelaire that poets can always be a poet, even in prose.”   Local poets have known Lyrical to combine poetry and music, and by recompense we were read two of her Minilogues, overheard conversations, just one hundred words long, Steve Scenario and Just Another Manic Mermaid.

The other two featured poets have work published by Lyrical.   Polly Bull picked up the autobiographical theme of moving to the USA in Blood Ants.    As a child, when her family relocated to America she initially found it all very alien, but her young resilience won through with the realisation that there were two vocabularies for each language, which was fun.  There lurks a metaphor in her Ode to a Coconut, which is “hard to reach and novel inside …  like a hut in Yorkshire”, but nevertheless is the source of wonderful things, like piña colada.  Sudden eclectic turns of idea made for an interesting poem and left one wondering if the metaphor also had an autobiographical element.   Jo D’arc is another musician and poet.  Her poems draw inspiration from myth and storytelling.  Many are inspired by Minerva, the junior of Capitoline Triad family of gods.  She read from a number of poems from her short story Minerva.  A picture of the earth awakening with energy is painted in Minerva Wakes and expanded in two other poems, She Dances and Only Flow.   Zooming in from her flat in Glasgow, Jo D’arc’s delivery was mesmerising in its melodious musicality.  (Though with that Doric voice, is it an Aberdonian accent?)  The mesmerism was however, perturbed a little: was that Jo’s flat mate standing behind intently listening wearing a waspie-waist? 

It was not only Glasgow, but once again this month Poetry Performance drew interest from far afield, including Chicago and Sydney.  Once again it provided opportunity to showcase some of the best poets from the wider Teddington area, many of whom are, alas, not published. 

Taking a look at professionals, and expressing some frustration at their attempts, was the subject of Steve Harman’s poem On the Couch, a great poem for listening and an entertaining concatenation of rhythm and ideas, full of internal rhymes.   He is of course talking of the psychotherapist, a shrink of the MeMe and Haz type, but he could instead have gone to the next poet.

Eddie Chauncy is inter alia a consultant counselling psychologist.  It is clear that his study of the mind started early.   In his Purity he recalls as a seven-year-old sitting on a beach and wondering, what is pure?  Grains of sand maybe are, but grains of sand find themselves everywhere else on a beach, such as his sandwiches and his swimming trunks.  Through the metaphorical microscope of this beach laboratory, his juvenile mind develops a philosophy.  Everything contains bits of everything else, therefore everything is impure.  Moreover, time exacerbates this effect.  The concept is thoughtfully developed into the psychological idea that to seek purity is suicide because nothing in pure.  Ergo, purity is nothingness.   The concept is cleverly built up in accurately constructed verse.

It is with well-constructed verse that Heather Montford returns to the month’s theme, painting an artist’s picture of a warm day in May, not in oils or gouache, not even in her own words, but in the words of the late Francis White, a former member of Poetry Performance, with description of a garden in her A Box of Blue Tits

In a pertinent coda, another description of a garden concluded the evening.   In his poem Wisteria, Bob Kimmerling tells of a sapling that he planted in his garden a few years ago, which now has grown into a ninety-foot beauty, whose exuberant vitality has taken it across his neighbour’s garden too, gracing it with its “showers of chandeliers” and with its perfume.  No matter how much it is clipped, its vigorous life and beauty shines through.  Then the metaphor becomes clear, as he states that “I am clipped by another hand”.  The goodness and beauty of the ultimate symbol of life, the way, the truth and the life exudes across the lives of those he meets.   We are in the month when rebirth comes to fruition … in May.

Thomas Forsythe, May 2021

Photography by Johnathon Sims, Richard Ainsworth, Charles Tonfou, Pedro Crosto, Bob Smith and Jeremy Masters.

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