By Emma Thorton
This month’s WordSpace begins with ‘The Mo Mo’s’, a trio set up with a five string electric bass, an acoustic guitar and a violin. The first song they play is called Sycamore Tree which is a fairly whimsical, nostalgic track. There is a beautiful melancholy to their sound, evoked by the violin. The next song is slow, yet humorous, it’s called Horseman and it’s written from the perspective of a horseman of the apocalypse. From their outlook they’re just another four guys with a job to do. They agree it’s an unthankful job, but someone’s got to do it, so they’ll ‘ride on through dawn’. It’s a beautifully soft duet with long drawn out notes. The next duet is about forgetting names, and the awkward moment when you get to know someone really well and when you meet up again, you’ve forgotten their name and it’s too embarrassing to ask then.
They stop for a minute and Lewis stands up to ask, “You got more songs?” to which they flippantly reply, “No, but we’ll make some up!” Lewis laughs along with the audience and moves on to tell us we will be having a special guest, Miles, and to congratulate Liz Mistry in her 2nd crime novel being published.
Lewis’ first act is his comic rendition of adjusting a mic stand. Or his struggle with a recalcitrant one. Once the stand is conducting itself with the proper height and stiffness it should retain for effectiveness, Lewis is able to recite a short story of his own. The title is Date and it is about a girl who’s trying to find some problem with the lad she’s on a date with. It doesn’t seem to be the red wine or the halitosis in his voice, but then he skips out on her, making an excuse to leave. She realises then that his problem was that he didn’t like her.
Joe comes up to tell us he hasn’t been writing as much as usual as he’s been working hard at a proper job. He decides to give us a game of Haiku Roulette, where we choose a number that pertains to one of his many poems. First up, #13: ‘Mother and daughter’; #27: ‘The victory of the underdog’; #63: ‘The usual lie: we’ll be back where we were’; #135: The Binary Haiku: ‘1011001010’; #196: ‘Death of a salesman involved in an accident that wasn’t his fault’; #2: ‘digging for treasure, we win if we find something worth more than the spade.’; #17: ‘I don’t care’; #200: ‘Haiku for Sophie, Anita, your eyes…’; #42: ‘Wallchart. Sweepstake. Check. I am ready, you are still building stadiums.’; #220: ‘Close the door slowly’. Thus end our Haiku vignettes, and thus begins the list poem, What Women Want, which consists of ‘Shoes, Chocolate, An end to the established oppression of patriarchy (put far more intelligently than here), And more shoes’. Joe leaves us on this note to laughter and applause.
Next up is Lynn, who is reading something new, and darker than usual, with a new ending also. It’s called Sickface. This is a short story about being sick of your own face, whilst also wishing to have someone else’s face. The persona thinks they can’t possibly look like this, something was still missing; or something was still there. The plan then, to replace the face, turn the ‘skin into patchwork’. The persona takes taxidermy and mask making courses to get the mix just right. At the end the story moves seamlessly between talking to the victim and the persona’s thoughts which stand in for the victim’s speech. The story ends on that fairly disturbing note, giving rise to the joke, ‘Lynn: The potential psychopath.
Lewis jumps back up to introduce ‘WordSpace: The Anything Prose Night’. The next speaker is a first timer to WordSpace who has only read in London, not up north, so this is all very new to Jonathan. The first poem he reads is called Adolescent and is all about the nostalgia one feels after they’ve been made to abandon childhood, longing to be sung to sleep again. There is some good, unexpected rhyme within the poem and done in some part from memory. He tells us ‘its crazy how strangers’ faces become less strange’ and the familiar less so. But when ‘we’re not together, time screeches to a halt. The next poem is called Heart and is a discussion of heartbreak. He suggests at the end that we must find our own light, we need the drowning to help us grow.
Next up is Trev, whose first poem is called November. October is gone and now comes the expectation of winter, the country and all people grind to a halt. November is an in-between time, December is the time for family and snow, just fog and frost. His next poem was inspired by Speakers corner last month, which made him ask ‘whatever happened to sex education?’. Finally he tells us that God created Yorkshire on the sixth day, and rested on the seventh because he knew then that he had created perfection.
Liz Mistry reads next a portion of her new novel in which a young detective is embarrassed by his pathologist father on his first day at a new job. They’re Scottish and he turns up in a kilt. The book sets up a conflict of interest between the son and the father, and adds into the parental relationship a working one, which adds more strain.
Next on the set list is Oz who will introduce our special guest and his good friend Miles after his piece. Oz tells us about adolescents half his age telling him how ‘awesome’ the era of punk was. So his first poem is called Like Punk Never Happened as what would happen if we didn’t have this ‘vintage’ era now. As usual, the best part of Oz’s set is his ad lib performance in explaining his poems before he speaks them. For his next one, he explains that he was looking at later editions of the standard versions of the American national anthem, such as the 1836 version by William Hickson. He sings of a ‘home of the brave and free’, which really makes one feel 4 inches taller and like they have a full head of hair. So this poem is called The Home of the Brave and the Free, but is a jokey take on Englishness, such as being more English than warm beer, the poem gets a bit darker and becomes a satirical frame of racism and marginalisation when he suggests we cut off all the bits of our bodies that aren’t English, ‘a Viking leg, a few French fingers’. The commentary on contemporary politics is brilliant and insightful, the ludicrousness of their foreign politic laid bare. The next poem is a haiku he wrote during the night in response to Joe’s roulette, ‘They called the raffle, all I wanted was a haiku, Joe you tight bastard’, which garnered a hearty laugh. The next poem is Life Style, about how times change and the old cemetery that lies under the street and the delicatessen. His last poem is called Not My President (Fuck No) which is even less than a Haiku and the title says it all.
Now the time comes for Oz to introduce his very close friend Miles, whom he met in a second-hand record shop. He’s a singer, songwriter and musician predominantly, but also a writer and poet with a somewhat dark tone to some of his work, including to the children’s book he has written called Howl. This is an ordinary children’s book, apart from that one of the teachers might be a werewolf. What Oz is most fascinated by in Miles is his ability to always make the ordinary slightly strange. Miles is always working on something new, he has so much energy and always seem sto be working on several projects at a time, and really seems to be a force for good in a time that’s slightly less than good most of the time.
And with that introduction, which constructs a high bar, Miles comes up to do his set. He says he’ll take questions (and also answer them). His first poem is called Liar, about all the words you want to hear from others. He justifies the lies by saying that they’re only consonants and vowels, nothing more. The next is Rolf’s Cartoon Time which is about the cartoon Tex Avery’s wolf from 1943 where a wolf, the epitome of the misogynistic male, falls in love with a voluptuous blonde woman. The poem is of the wolf’s wet dream, the blonde singing to invite him in. The next poem is Turn It Down which is Madame Bovary inspired, with the brilliant line, ‘his heart like people who could only tolerate certain music’. The next poem Learning to Crawl is about a horrific car accident and the struggle one will have with never walking again. The poem concludes with the persona trying to crawl towards the old man who holds his hand through it all. Miles moves on to a short anecdote about a guy in England who has Hitler’s phone, i.e. the phone that was in Hitler’s Berlin bunker from which he made his final commands. He’s desperately trying to get rid of it however, but no one wants it, no museums or collectors, so now he’s trying to auction it off in America. This story relates to his next poem, Brennt Paris (Is Paris Burning). It is set in Germany, about the potential saviour of Paris, a general who would not burn the beautiful city where ‘light smashed nothing’. He then invites us back to music, inquiring if anyone remembers the punk era? The next poem is 1977, about ‘The Sex Pistols’ and going to our first gig. It begins ‘overnight our bodies grew… Baptised in spit and noise’ and ends with: ‘None of us asked to grow old’. The Bet is next, before he moves on to say, ‘I guess everyone’s really pleased about the situation in America’ which gets a derisive laugh. He goes on to say that ego is terribly destructive if not in a balanced human, and that this next poem relates to that, but is not about Donald Trump specifically. Jimmy Saville Speaks is a poem about ego and his constant spouting of all his achievements and his ability to make everything about ‘me, me, me’. The next is Monument Valley which is an American poem about classic Westerns and that alien landscape you would encounter through them. Finally, a song, originally by Woodie Guthrie as a way to speak out against the racial hatred against black people. He invited us to sing This Land is Your Land with him, which was written as a reaction to God Bless America, which only spoke for white America. It is a great country song which speaks for inclusion over separatism.
Hitler’s phone has finally been sold: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/18/hitlers-personal-telephone-gifted-red-army-british-officer-goes/
Up next is Kathleen and her first poem is about her father, who fell in love and soon after joined the marines, expecting his love to be faithful and wait for him. She did not, and whenever he heard their song throughout his life he would get up and leave the room. She tells us that all through December she wrote poems on Janice Joplin. This one is titled Janice. She tells us ‘All I want is to be happy’, though ‘In her pocket not a penny’, she’s ‘Drunk or stoned, staggering into blues’.
Now a first timer to Word Space, James, who reads from memory Europe is Full. The poem is about distancing ourselves from the politicians who speak for us: ‘They repeated, them and I’. His stance is made clear when he exclaims ‘Firmly and loudly declare, ‘OPEN THE BORDERS”. This poem is a rallying call as, with ‘Capitalism necrotising every country’, we must ‘Stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are down’. James worked in The Jungle while it existed and he was there when they burned it down, so this is To the two lovely policemen who took a selfie as the camp burned. They were ‘gleeful voids of uniform’, a deserving dehumanisation of this pair; ‘our sallow smiling swines, swapped places and clicked, shutters for each other, for friends and family’. He has been away from home a lot doing humanitarian work, so this is Coming Back After Being Away For A While, and talks of the warmth of coming home.
Alyssia begins with A Note to Exit Lights, which is about having an argument and desperately needing to slam a door but being outside. She grew up in post dictatorial Spain but her grandparents chose separate sides in the war, her father’s father was a tailor and a communist under the red, gold and purple flag, now just the red and gold flag as the fascists won. Next she reads us The World From the Middle of a Double Decker Table. She grew up in an anti-Semitic world and the ‘double decker table confined my view to the window outside and the shins of strangers’. Her fascist grandfather has always sparked interest in her, and he lived longer than her communist grandfather. His flag ‘displayed red and gold and not the purple colour of dissonance’.
Hannah begins her set with Mole Man. She then begins Macarena about a girl who embraced chastity and virginity and ‘she should not be given over silently’. Her poems have a dark tone to them. Map of Love is about someone ‘off-grid’ and contains some really evocative imagery such as the ‘setting sun wedged between rooftops’ on a Friday night when later ‘drinkers colonise the pavement’.
Claire reads off a laptop to combat the murk of the room’s lighting (or lack thereof). Her first poem is a long narrative poem called Nellie Basker. It quick-changes from point to point and all tie in together neatly. The next poem is about a sewing machine factory her family worked in and is called The Day If Richard Came, about the time that Cliff Richard came to the clothes factory. He questions the narrator of the poem about the difficulties of working in a tailory.
Next is Katherine whose first poem is Soldier which discusses the disorientation of stepping out of your door. As a soldier you go out of the house, onto the street, into rain, warmth, blistering heat, then bullets, yet still they say ‘Sleep peacefully, soldier, you are not dead’.
Keiran and Connor are our penultimate act, and a musical one, with a plethora of young fans, a drum box and an acoustic guitar. They play a lively two song set for us; I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet), and Never Gonna Lock the Door.
The final act is Billy who’ll end us ‘on a low note’. He has a New Years Resolution to write a new song to perform for every WordSpace, but he’s not doing very well as he wrote this one at lunchtime so it has no bridge, as he amusingly couldn’t be arsed to write one. He warns he might not remember it as he’s had three pints since then. Thus one’s called something (It’s Really Not My Nature). The song is really quite good considering its half improvised nature as he forgets the second verse (What a bitch) and this makes it really quite unintentionally funny. It’s a cheesy love ballad from a guy telling a girl that it’s ‘really not my nature, but girl I think I’m falling for you’. Which ends this post on a cheery note.