What. is. that. NOISE?

The sound of guns?
What can I do to stop it?
Love. Love Poetry. 

A new night of poetry and performance. Presenting some of Britain’s finest poetic voices. Featuring renowned established authors, alongside exciting new regional talent.

The idea? To raise the platform for contemporary poetry in a theatre space designed to heighten the audience-experience. There’s a great deal of dross out there, given a lot of undeserved air time. There’s also a lot of great work, which we need to hear more of.

Increasingly far more onus is placed on exaggerated performance. Because our attentions as a society can only be grabbed in a violent way, words are becoming secondary. But language has its own power. It needs to be given the proper space, in real time, as well as on the page, before any kind of spoken performance or ‘production’ can make sense. Like a play, a poem needs to adopt its own order.  If a playwright produced a ton of gobbledegook, gave it to Brian Blessed, and he belted it out with as much energy and vigour as he could muster, would this make it a good play? No. It would make it weird, and at best, semi-sensational. It would resonate, but only because of its weirdness. I’m pretty sure after a while it would become boring as well.

This level of weirdness seems to be where, not all, but a lot of performance poetry is working from. Love Poetry isn’t about about ‘shutting out’ the performer. A theatre is a space where people perform – where Puck appears, Hamlet, Ariel. The lights dim, the room quietens, and finally a voice slices through the veiled atmosphere. What is the voice saying? Well that’s the key. Love Poetry celebrates the combination. Valuing the power of words alongside the power of the performance in equal measureIn January I travelled to London, Keats House, to be a judge for Andrew Motion’s national Poetry By Heart competition. Our winner didn’t flaunt, gesticulate, rant, or ‘dramatise’ her reading. She simply delivered it, with feeling and the kind of animation and strength that can only come from a deep understanding of what is being said.  The words were profound – but also the reading. She put the poems across in a powerful, measured, timeless manner.

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It’s one thing to grasp your own work – but to fully grasp the varying emotional shades, tones, and complexities of another is….very cool. I don’t see much in the way of ‘grasping’ or understanding from a lot of  performance poets, even of their own work. And I don’t know if this is because they actually don’t or if they’ve just got lost in flaunting their abilities to ‘jibber’ and manipulate sound. The words and the meaning are utterly drowned, perhaps even forgotten by the deliberate attention to volume and speed. It’s very noisy. Very enthusiastic too, but the performances seem hugely affected. It’s like poorly executed jazz – ‘inFLEctions that, FALL and RISE and DA – Da-Da-  DA.’ But quite often I can’t locate the thread of reason. Where are you going with this? I often think. I’m not convinced, if I put that question out there, anyone could give me a straight answer.

Some call it brave experimentalist modernism. It isn’t. It’s pop culture. It’s annoying and its coming out of our ears. There’s some really truly fantastic writing going on out there. From both performance and/or spoken word artists, and page poets. But as a good friend pointed out, is there really any difference? There is, I think, disparity between those who want to master the former, and those who are being too easy on content. It seems lazy to me – writers who have  become too pre-occupied with the production, an approach which ultimately lets the spirit of the work suffer. This wave of pop-poetry smacks too much of the X Factor/Pop Idol/The Voice. It lifts certain artists into arenas of excellence when they are neither worth lifting nor excellent, and in turn drowns out those voices  – young and old, spoken word oriented or not – who do have potential. Who can write, and voice their work in a way that is all their own.

I really do find, as someone who deeply values and knows her craft, this completely discredits and undermines what poetry is. Crafting a good poem is like building a table, from scratch. Only the finished product doesn’t rest in a single space. It needs to be elevated – taken back to its physical roots (the gut, the heart, the brain) through suitable and justified vocal articulation. This is why ‘Love Poetry’ has come to the fore. To get people back into loving the poetry. In theory it does exactly what it says on the tin. Love Poetry is a theatre-house for the magic. For poetry that is powerful: that might not be seen or heard as much as it should because of all that wild stomping and  not-at-all prophetic ramblings that occupy a lot of poetry performance spaces. I did go down the route of calling it something like Opium or Ubuntu or Black Yoghurt. It’d get more Brownie points. But it could also get mildly confusing. It also makes the evening sound busier and dirtier than it’s ever likely to be.

It won’t be a monthly affair – quality is a product of time and energy. March 14th, features Paul Henry (Seren Books) and Edinburgh’s very own Janette Ayachi. We also have two exciting regional voices:. LD Henriquez and Samantha Hunt, and a lovely music set from Hannah Brown. Readings will be interspersed with book signings, refreshments and submission only floor spots. Details of how to submit for our next event will be live shortly.

Like the idea? Reserve a ticket.

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