Paper boats and dancing poets at Shakespeare’s, Sheffield

  Sheffield, I love your space and street art, your compactness and charm. Sheffield is a place I feel I could direct people around after two days of finding my way. From the back streets of Vicar Lane and Campo Lane to West Bar roundabout in rush hour and the Graves Gallery. I visited the Picture the Poet exhibition at Graves Gallery on the way to my accommodation and chatted with a few visitors about poetry. If I’d known it was on in advance I would have arrived earlier and accosted all the patrons with Sheffield Quiet Compere flyers.   I went to check out the venue in the afternoon and my main concern was that the lights were not powerful or pointed at the stage. I had brief visions of the Quiet Compere holding a torch to each poet’s papers. Would have been memorable, but given a gaffer tape impression of the tour. Not a review I am really aiming for. This is the third gig where the mic has been done away with. (Liverpool and Blackpool were the other two). The wandering poets make the event feel less “us and them”, but also made it more difficult for me to take photos of the performers – The mic leash would have kept them out of the lights.   Gav Roberts: kicked off the evening with considered words and Paper boats – the theme of water and boats was to continue through the night and we even had real paper boats on the table! I liked his feelings folded away and love the idea that we should: “Always give hope back in the same shape it was given, but bigger”. Sarah Hymas: brought paper boats and exquisite artworks of poetry volumes. She has decided to write about water until she’s bored if it! I loved “I am silence or instruction” and the “intimacy of forecast”. Helen Mort: A local reference to Fagin’s evil pub quiz feels very familiar. Helen admitted she is in fact 80% limestone. The poem about walking the Swiss Alps in a crinoline “An easy day for a lady” amused me.    River Wolton:. “Even the shy spelled out/their names/on strangers’ palms” and “Most of all we wanted song/its tide in our ribs.” Were lines that have stayed me from River’s set. I loved the ant poem and the story at the beginning about carefully forming it to the number of legs of an ant (then realising they didn’t have eight legs!). Alan Halsey: The bits of noise and indecipherable commentary were mixed in with the balm of real words. I have no idea what this performance was and whether I like it or not, but it was unusual. Alan is the first poet on the tour who has taken volume in the sense of books (I think). The book title list poem amuse me, a line from it: “Origin of Evil, The – An epic poem”. Martin Collins: read an excellent internet dating poem. I loved the prayer boats and their echo through the who of the night and the water that ran through the event. Geraldine Monk: Her faulty sound system poem and it went down very well with the audience. The poem was set on a boat so the theme continued. Jonathan Eyre: “landing on the moon was the start of the end of mankind/ Frogs are dreaming of the days of tadpoles” the water continues and becomes political. His sex cashpoint poem pays off. Anne Caldwell: She “longed for a starless sky/short circuited everything/a cliff-top house where she sang to herself”. The incantations of places and flowers in the poem Imagining her own death. I had to pause for a second when the son chose his “favourite aunt for a mother” and the solemnity of the poem was lost for a second after the earlier poem stuffed with “ants”. Genevieve L Walsh: rhymed breasts and BBC North West. Got to admire that! I always want Gen to “do” the Depeche Mode one and the skill she has of getting everyone to listen and empathise before she starts. At least half a dozen poets and audience hung around after the event for a couple of beers. This left me with a warm feeling and the continuation of the night, rather than suddenly saying a couple of dozen goodbyes and finding myself stranded in an empty place or alone in a place busy with other people’s lives where I feel I no longer belong. On the Saturday I stayed on for the Sheffield Writer’s Day and I wrote the piece below at the workshop: Leaving on a train when you are not the destination I leave the last tears I can cry for you on Platform 3 of Stockport Station. On Brighton beach I leave the stone you gave me smoother than today. On my cousin’s couch wrapped in a tearless grief I leave self-pity. At the sea’s edge I leave your Budweiser top (that smells of Ariel and Lynx Africa) Waves roughly take it. Promenade footsteps and the growl of a pebble shore erode sentiment. As the train pulls into Stockport station I realise I left the fear of alone on Brighton beach. Oh and I do know this is the Sheffield blog, but more news soon about the National Bid success. Quiet Compere will be continuing in 2015 with a National Tour. Happy dance. xxx

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