I Have just attended the most incredible afternoon of poetry. The event entitled 100 poets was a fundraiser for the Scottish Poetry Library organised by Glasgow poet laureate Jim Carruth. To manage 100 to get poets to read in the space of five hours would be no small feat. It would however mean that each poet would be able to read only one poem. Now I am sure there are some people who would be wondering if attending an event where you would be restricted to such a short set would be worth attending. I however had no qualms in accepting my invitation to perform and I did so without reservation. Well I have performed at slams so the idea of one poem and off is by no means new to me.
As the event took place on Sunday I regret to say I wasn’t in attendance for the full five hours as I have church to attend in the morning and this is very important to me. Bearing this in mind I had said to Jim not to put me on too early and I would be down as soon as possible after morning service. To make sure I kept my word I asked my depute minister Alex Stewart to remind me to leave church as soon as possible after the service and not let me wander in to the main hall for the three c’s also known as coffee, cake and chat. Being a good guy Alex was only too happy to oblige and I left the kirk on the corner much earlier than usual and headed to the Project Cafe which was the venue for this poetic feast.
As this was a new venue to me I had a wee bit of trouble finding it but when I finally arrived the place was packed to the rafters and on what would have been my dad’s 88th birthday had he been still been here it was perhaps coincidence or possibly fate that the first poet I saw on my arrival was Stephen Watt who was reading his award winning poem suitably entitled my father. Needless to say this was one of those lump in the throat moments and I just about managed to hold myself together.
Brian Whittingham was next up to the stage and he also read a poem on the topic of parental love and how we seek parental approval even though they are no longer around to provide it. This is a very moving poem and I really enjoy listening to it. I believe I could hear it 100 times get something different from it every time I hear it. As I managed to find a seat I realised I was in good company as I was seated at the same table as Elizabeth Rimmer, Eveline Pye, Rita Bradd, and Colin Will with Etta Dunn and A C Clarke at the table opposite me. With Etta who is the Chairperson of the Federation Of Writers Scotland in such close geographical proximity I thought I had better behave myself or at very least to try to.
Speaking of Colin Will, his poem The Pict was one of the highlights of the day. This complex and thought provoking poem challenged us to think differently about Scotland, stereotypes and the idea of nation and maybe open our ears just a bit more to listen to point of view of others. Another poem which spoke to my heart was Shaun Moore’s take on the Clutha helicopter tragedy and the fact whilst Glasgow mourned some people seemed indecent in their quest for publicity. I wonder who that could be? If it’s ringing any bells they are probably alarm bells and warning you against cynical opportunists. Talking of opportunists Kathryn Metcalfe’s poem on Iraq and summed up perfectly what she and I think of David Cameron. Believe me when I say Kathryn has a habit of hitting the target with her political poetry and yet again my wee chosen sister was bang on the money.
There were also excellent readings from the brilliant Magi Gibson, Rosie Mapplebeck, Peter Russell whose Ewan MacColl inspired poem was one of the best of the day, Donny O’Rourke whose choice of Scots Pine though short was actually lethal, Bernard McLaverty, whose choice of topic seemed to be the boy least likely to succeed but did and made things happen. Stewart Sanderson who is yet another new and exciting voice to the spoken word scene and Stephanie Green who will be appearing at Stanza next month.
Eventually it was my turn and my poem of choice was The Lemon Dress. This poem was written about growing up in the 70’s with a secret and it seems to be a favourite of other poets particularly though not exclusively female poets and it got good reviews from Rita Bradd, Finola Scott, Rosie Mapplebeck, who is a very strong supporter of trans equality and Suzanne Finn whose poem on confession and guilt really struck a chord with me.
In the final hour we had barnstorming performances from our national makar Liz Lochhead, Geoff Cooper, whose poem on Chilean poet Pablo Neruda spoke clearly to my left wing heart. Alan McGlas whose poem The Editor reveals an editor’s secret thoughts which he dare not write when he is sending out rejection letters to those he has refused to publish. Robin Cairns whose poem The Haggis Replies is one of the best and funniest Burns themed poems I have actually heard and Sheila Templeton whose love poem for Glasgow was I thought a fitting way to hand over to Jim Carruth for the final poem of the day.
At the end of a brilliant afternoon Jim gave his vote of thanks to those who needed thanking and raised a fantastic amount of money to assist the Scottish Poetry Library in their renovation work and as I made my way back to Baillieston I reflected that whilst I couldn’t claim to be one in a million. I was proud that I was one in a hundred.
Reviewer : Gayle Smith