WordSpace 1st March – By Emma Thorton

This is a friendly space for the arts: poetry, prose, every form of performance, including (but not exclusive to) bare-naked wrestling, pottery, competitive baking, anything our audience and performers are willing to do.

We have two special guests tonight (everybody say ‘ooh’). We have Carl, on the musical interludes, and we have David Barnett, an award winning journalist and author found (and mildly twitter stalked) and invited by Amina.

We kick off the night with John Daly who beings with Anchoress, an imagistic poem. He moves onto Set, and then Retro Futurism, a poem about the idea of having old futures revived. The poem suggests that the future will be full of repetition and revival, as the past has been. But permutations of the new, sully the old. The final poem is Still Life, an immortalisation of finite things through paintings, just as poetry in turn, immortalises.

Rosemary is called forward. She has been writing a small collection of poems on women from the past. A snippet of these are the two she reads; Joan of Arc and American Pioneer Woman. Joan is about the English advance in France and Joan’s rise as a political and religious figure. The English hated that she dressed as a man, but she saw herself as wearing ‘the garb of God’, no longer the peasant girl. American Pioneer Woman is about the independence of the roving American woman, making quilts to carry the domestic with them through the cold wildernesses, ‘free to walk [their] crazy ways’.

Simon’s poem is Letter to My Younger Self, which addresses the younger self with what the older self has learned, and what he should have done differently, but the younger self replies, telling the older self he had not failed either of them. It’s a sweet and poignant poem

Trev is involved in a charity radio show about the 33rd anniversary of the Miner’s Strike (which began on 5th March 1984). He is speaking on 5 Towns Radio about the strike and welcomes any poets who’d like to read out their work on air and be paid in cups of tea. His first contribution to tonight’s programme: Days of Mining Glory. It’s a simple rhyming pome bolstered by his Northern accent, about how industrialisation and technological advances eventually overtook the miners, making them obsolete. His next poem is Percy Braithwaite an anecdotal poem about a memory brainiac who is asked a question he cannot answer. His last is another ode to mining in Ernie Was A Miner. Ernie thinks he can do anything and volunteers wildly for the county cricket, and takes it up in heavy mining boots, which causes the team to lose rather badly.

Next up is Kathleen, who first reads A Photo of Mum on the Beach, 1950 which is a beautifully written facsimile of her mother’s portrait in the photo; the result is endearing and poignant. I somewhat missed the title to this one, but I think it’s called (W)Hole of Mulgrave which centres around the story of the giant Wade, who one day got angry with his wife and threw so large a clod of earth at her that when it missed it created a large hole in the ground that now is Mulgrave. Her next poem is At the Women’s Gym describing the grains and warp of the wood in floorboards, which happen to look like vaginas. The poem contains some excellent innuendo. Her last poem is Marry Me Mr. Moon, a funny little love poem.

Carl now provides a musical interlude and his first song is about Buttons, his old cat, who had a great butt wiggle and the crooning love song is called Crazy. The next is a folk tune about the personification of Barley which will be made into beer and the journey it takes to become beer. Before he sings, he mentions ‘found poetry’, such as the words on the back of a Japanese  beer bottle: ‘Water, Barley, Rice, Hop; For best before, see top.’ The song is called, John Barley. His last song for the break is called I Have No Heart, a song of heartache, and is pretty typically country, as can be seen from these lyrics: ‘Ain’t loving no one else, got a bottle as the only friend.’

After the break comes our special guest, David Barnett, introduced by Amina. He is an award-winning journalist, and novelist. His novels tend towards fantasy and steampunk, though his most recent endeavour has led him into space.

His new book is Calling Major Tom, a space adventure story born out of David Bowie’s death and Tim Peake’s amusing accident when attempting to call NASA from the space station and instead contacting a woman in Leicester. The story begins with an 8-year-old Major Tom watching Star Wars in the cinema alone, as his Dad has no interest in watching it with him. This is something that affects him for many years, so when the chance comes to get away from it all (it being Earth) by literally going to Mars, he takes it. The rest of the story centres around the fictional Tom making the same mistake as Tim whilst on Mars, and ends up meeting Gladys Omerod, who then, in this comic retelling, keeps him on the line and embroils him in her family dramas. The book is filled with pop culture references, taking on a tragicomic tone, largely based around Tom’s unwillingness to make sense of this world, so trades it for life alone on Mars.

The book comes out on the 29th of June in paperback and is already available from Orion books in eBook format.

After the reading from David, Carl sets back up on a 12-string electric to play some more tunes. His first is Arthur Liam Love, about horrible hippies, and his second is The Red Telephone which was vert pertinent to our times.

Hannah Stone is up after the musical interlude, and comes on with fabulous leggings. Her first read is called St David’s Day, appropriately inspired by Wales, though this is a plug for Dylan Thomas Day and a call for poetry and readers for the event on the day. The next is Time which has a marinal theme. The final is about her short time spent in Wales when she ended up caring for an orphaned lamb. It’s called Molly Lamb and it seeks to lay out the strangeness of loving and rearing something you know is ultimately bred for slaughter.

Kevin reads; Carehome in Shipley, where one can encounter a never ending stream of strangers and borrowed clothes. He also reads Students Coming Together, a love poem about two university students who study Classics and Physics coming together in a relationship and learning each other, and beginning to love. It tracks their relationship and shows how they stick to it, for good or ill.

James is back again after his successful first run last week and begins with Lake Sanabria which is a pastoral scene of a Spanish lake and the enjoyment of going down to visit this beautiful place. Next he reads a poem called Disliking the Job But Also Disliking Unemployment. It’s a funny poem that lays out the difficulties of being unemployed, and having to speak to people who simply suggest we should put ‘more bullet points on our CV’s’. He also comments on the nature of satire, how comedians simply satirise the politicians who satirise and deride us. The final poem here is his political, ‘Deafening roar of sick silence…’, which holds a lot of violent and rather grotesque imagery, but as always the rallying cry at the end: ‘we will not give up’.

Amina is next with a poem about the Indus Valley Civilisation. Her writing is subtly very intelligent. Her repetition in this poem is delightful and nuanced as she continues different phrases throughout the poem to give them proper significance, such as; ‘Carnelian they wore, and lapis lazuli’. She speaks poignantly of ‘the script we have [that] is not deciphered yet…’, the impressive script of an almost lost and forgotten people. Her final read is called Almost Lost and centres around the Pharaoh’s pleasure-boat drifting down the Nile, when suddenly a girl loses her circlet to the river and is almost beside herself with grief. The Pharaoh’s magician called upon to retrieve the circlet, and he somehow parts the water to do so. Perhaps then, this is not about the circlet at all, but is simply a show to entertain the Pharaoh which wonders.

We come now to our penultimate poet of the night, Joe. He plugs a new anthology coming out soon from the ‘By George’ Open Mic Music Night and is called Troubadour. This is the poem he wrote specifically for a night there when he knew they would have talent scouts from BBC’s The Voice attending. Joe wrote Ricky Wilson for them. In the poem, Ricky Wilson pushes his button, turns around and is lost for words. In front of him, performing a wonderful rendition of ‘Non je ne regrette rien’ is an operatic chimpanzee. Ricky is stuck with the chimp on his team. The next poem is inspired by recent Facebook conversations and is called Bloke Walks Into A Pub. The man is attending an open mic night for the first time and comes in with a Virgilian poem spoken only in Latin about a man devoured by snakes.

Oz first reads Seachest, about going to dark places. He’s releasing the next Leeds Trinity anthology and calling it ‘Inspiring Futures’ because we’re in fucking horrible times and art’s beautiful. The final poem of the night is Flux. It uses a lot of sci-fi imagery, saying ‘we are made from the stuff of stars’, adding ideas of discovery and circularity: ‘Shifting invisibly to intimacy’. It’s utterly beautiful.

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