The Jean Brodie Room, The Grand Witches’ Ball and poets ready for rain or The Quiet Compere Exeter blog

I arrived in Exeter late afternoon and checked into my accommodation. I was delighted to find I had been allocated The Brodie themed single room, with private Brodie bathroom and quotes and film posters on the wall and a copy of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in the bedside cabinet along with the bible. I read half of this book before checking out and had to buy a new copy on the way home to continue on the train! On arrival at The Phoenix all was fabric and pendulous sparkle as The Grand Witches prepared for a ball! I dragged myself away to host poetry in the room upstairs. Tom Sastry: started with a poem about filling the empty space of a new house “we can eat pizza from the box and test out the air-bed” because he is starting up anew poetry night and is thinking about how to fill the space with poets and audience, love and atmosphere. I loved the pace and dark humour of Complicity and best of all I could read it again on the train back on Sunday in the Best of 52. Read Complicity and other 52 poems here: Susan Jordan: described death as a ‘final thread reeling out of the goodbye they’ve been saying’ and ‘lurking in dark, he was badger, dust-scuffed and branch-strewn, sunrise turned him into a dazzled vole.’ Clare Hepworth-Wain: performed Bonnard is banished and I love the music in the lines “Creamy tiles/soured to beige./Pine panelling/shrunk to grain.” To read the whole of Bonnard is banished buy The Broadsheet here in October : Hannah Linden: told us about a woman who “could take summat ugly/an ide it in Lancastrian” and then read poem The Stars Are Cherry Stones that Have Lost Their Colour. about her son and how “The idea/of no one counting up to the beginning of time frightens him”. Hannah Linden is hosting a night of 52 poetry at Swindon Poetry Festival Alasdair Paterson: In Pier Head, Liverpool is “a good place to get your heart broken and find a song to patch it.” In Nomenclature every line was quotable and the phrases “barely-dented laughter” and ” a willed dishevelment” were so fresh. Matt Harvey: The speed, the timing and the humour in Prune Stone Oracle pulled us all in. After hearing Where earwigs dare where Matt ‘first went freelance, then gently feral.’ I want my own shed to go feral in. His time lapse love story with flowers was genius and reminded me of one of my favourite authors, Magnus Mills. The specific types of flowers were so carefully chosen. I love it when you can tell poets have gone out and done some research. Rebecca Gethin: Owlography is soon to come out in Three Drops from a Cauldron. Rebecca explained that maps look as if they are in the daylight…being white but an owl’s map would be of the night and therefore grey or black! ‘valleys of their anatomy, tours of their feathers’ ‘calls rip apart the vertebrae of stars pencilled on to the night of this map. Gram Joel Davies: Gram opened with Oops, Sorry, a sex poem ‘this is exciting, like biting on lightning.’ His set continued with passion hinted at and blatant. In his rain poem, These threads are the singing: “the curse of being melts from you in torrents.’ and in Turn the Wheel and Look to Windward (T.S.Eliot): “Both mariner and miller/could reckon/this way of lacing work/with cords of air, its flavour/of minerals and grass.” Simon Williams: Simon started with a Niels Bohr quote “Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.” And the one about Neann (the Neanderthal) at school was genius. ‘Though we don’t encourage it, she’s very good at wrestling.’ Mark Totterdell: Mark’s poem Spinosaurus was luscious “all monochromes, skewed limbs, the whiff of glue” ‘what is long dead continues to evolve.’ Loved the descriptions Animal antics grey squirrels – ‘all scuttle and fluff’, wild boar ‘all snuffle and bristle’, beavers ‘all chisels and paddles’ and my favourite – lobster ‘tie-dyed t-shirt of chitin’. Many of the poets hung around in the bar to banter and admire the fabric and flair of the witches and drink ale. The following day there was a 52 gathering at a local pub. The blog about this will follow soon. I am off to read the last chapter of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

The Quiet Compere Hull – Meet me at the nose of this cow a week on Friday. Bring Cake (Sue Lozynskyj).

I had never been to Hull before and enjoyed a jaunt around the Arcades and the indoor market, complete with the Hull Wall of Fame including The Housemartins, Philip Larkin and others I knew of and surprisingly, to me, Reece Shearsmith. I found Ye Olde White Harte on Silver Street. A striking building built in 1550. The locals furnished it with stories too. From the man who was calling the doctor for an urgent appointment for heart palpitations with a pint in front of him, the man who was asking his wife if a cheque had arrive while ‘having a coffee’ (pint) to the three women who were happy to chat with me about the ghostly goings on in their respective workplaces – radios turning on, strange figures. In the evening it should have come as no surprise to me when two of the audience had to leave (due to emergencies) before the end of the first half and two performers left before I could pay them. Life was happening in stereo the day I visited Hull Alyx Tamminen: In her poem Fight Flight or Withstand about escaping an abusive relationship the woman was ‘not worth the air she was done breathing in’ and wanted ‘a home where her bones won’t break on the soil.’ No link. Wendy Pratt: In one of Wendy’s poems ‘the air span diamonds out of sea fret’ and she instructs you to ‘stop folding the sky through the creases of your skin.’ I loved the idea of mourning the phasing out of the fog-horns and the fact they could ‘lull a child to sleep from ten miles away’ and ‘the salt-code inside’ us. Pamphlet Nan Hardwick Turns into a Hare and her full collection Museum Pieces are both published by Prolebooks and her new one, Lapstrake is published by Flarestack Poets. Johanna Boal: Johanna read The Drowning, a revisited poem in response to Calais refugee news. Then she took us on a Hull Carnival ride. This poem is included in Johanna’s pamphlet Cardboard City published by Poetry Space. Miki Higgins: The lines that struck me most were: ‘The floor he made from his jealousies and fears/The bars from empty promises’ and ‘There is no colour, there is no colour…The soul is a savage thing…’ No link. Anarchist Rob Eunson: I loved the line from What the world wants me to be about the ‘correct theatrical gesture – left hand over knitted brow to convey deep thought’ and the concise ‘we are all damaged inside. I think even you can see that.’ Carol Robson: The lines that struck me particularly were from Old School about ‘hard, but damn well happy times.’ the fact that Women’s Space in Spoken Word: ‘is genderless’ was Carol’s response to ‘space’ theme. Sue Lozynskyj: ‘Let dance listen until the last note – rocks decorated by drops of pitch’. I love her instructions to ‘meet me at the nose of this cow a week on Friday. Bring Cake.’ I smiled at the dishing out of the flags and how one is bestowed for ‘the most imaginative use of seaweed’ and this takes the audience off in all directions in our heads. ‘There is nothing so musical as an ambulance siren when you know it is coming for you.’ Bernie Cullen: After the emergencies in the room ‘searching for connect and steady mode’ after a life upset felt right. Her tsunami poem was moving, especially the line ‘hair had been cut, teeth mended, your smile a little different’ and my favourite the line ‘a history of the world’s pain distilled to perfect complaint.’ Jim Higo: I love the rhythm of the line: ‘I’ve got a funeral suit and christening trousers’ and the sadness of the repetition in There is a man lost in the supermarket and he is shopping for one. The title line repeated as a kind of alarm call. Jim hosts Away with Words: Catherine Scott: Catherine performed Thanks for that, we’ll have that! poem about Greece ‘the rest of the world looked away, but still went there on holiday.’ and the poem about the miners’ family holidays in Rhyl. The night was intense and for a gathering of a couple of dozen humans in a room there were a whole lot of emergencies going on with several audience having to leave early.