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Roger McGough Poetry Celebration

by on 12 September 2021

Complementary Insights

Roger McGough Poetry Celebration

Arts Richmond at the Exchange Theatre, Twickenham, 4th September

Review by Denis Valentine

(See also a review by Simone de Almeida, one of our younger reviewers.)

As theatres, performance spaces and the arts in general begin to reopen and become accessible again, it was a wonderful to spend a day in a theatre auditorium being entertained and engaged by a host of wonderful poets, poems and readers at the Exchange Theatre in Twickenham.  The Roger McGough’s Poetry Celebration afternoon and wonderfully hosted by the man himself (who interludes throughout and offers at times his own masterful works), is aptly named as the feeling is just that, a day to celebrate poetry and what can be conveyed in the works it allows. 

Each poem read in their category complements each other, as they all offer an insight into a different aspect of the topic they cover.  Whether it is issues of blatant racism in the “Differences” category being immediately followed by that of accents and misplaced remarks, or the journey of finding one’s own self in the “Identity” group to also exploring issues of breeding and purpose, each poem offers another part or perspective on the spectrum it’s covering. 

Across the range, some make their points with humour whilst other pose much darker questions and concepts.  As Roger McGough himself says at one point each poem has merits to be a winner in its own right and picking one as a standout is a very subjective practice. 

Each reader reads well and really creates the imagery of each, whilst no point or idea that any writer was making is lost in any way in the reading. 

So which poems ended up on the podium?  Gold went to Stuart Fortey for his (Self) Portrait 1503, a speculative tease on the world’s most famous portrait, but cleverly written from the point of view of the sitter, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo.  David Mark Williams took Silver with his Becoming a Statue in Commemoration of Yourself positing the idea that is an “ordinary” person became a statue, nothing much would alter for him, being there for others, lots of waiting, bring abused by pigeons (!).  The Bronze was shared between two entries, Riding Tandem by Tony Trafford, which looks nostalgically back with regret for lost opportunities in love; and Audrey Ardern-Jones’ Voices, written in ghazal, a form is intended to expresses loss and love, in this case in memory of Polish forebears, civilians lost to the brutality of wartime. 

The commended and winners on the night are indicative of the fact that they all look and explore something different but keep the common theme of the introspective look into what the author is trying to convey. 

Roger McGough Poetry Celebration was exactly what would be hoped for from such an event.  It proved to be a lovely afternoon in the theatre, which was truly a celebration of some great poetry that offered some enjoyable, interesting and reflective insights into certain aspects, ideas and states.

Denis Valentine, September 2021

Photography by Bjorn Lester

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  1. Roger McGough Poetry Celebration | Mark Aspen

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