A Night with Eddie Argos, Art Brut Frontman, pretend Spoken Word Artist

Posted on

“I formed a Band”, Eddie Argos,

Broadcast Café, Glasgow

24th May 2015


Eddie Argos is a singer who doesn’t sing, he admits this straight away. It should come as no surprise to audiences, then, that he isn’t a spoken word artist either.

This reviewer wasn’t sure what to expect from a spoken word night by the likes of Argos, though I was mildly aware of his eccentricity. Argos made it big(ish) with his band Art Brut by resting on the laurels of his talented bandmates, and his own strange brand of eccentricity and charisma. His style of singing (talking) lent a unique and off-kilter sound which has attracted a cult following, as well as glowing decade-old reviews by the likes of NME. Now, he’s launching a crowd-funded autobiography, and embarking upon a mini tour of the UK putting on a one-man 45 minute “Spoken Word” show.

Luckily, Argos is funny. He also oozes charisma, and he has great comic timing. Not to mention he’s likeable. He has a cult following. And he’s never pretended to be clever, just weird. For those expecting classic Eddie, the show is a great chance to see a famous(ish) musician up close and personal, with the chance to ask questions, and bask in the intimacy of a half-empty room. I think Argos made eye contact with just about everyone, all fifteen of us.

For those expecting Spoken Word, Argos certainly does not hit the mark. It did not help that his opening acts were two of the most talented spoken word artists in Scotland – Bram E. Gieben (Scottish Slam Champion) and Kevin Gilday. Both personify the best of spoken word in the United Kingdom. Gieben, also a musician, blends his own brand of post-apocalyptic diatribe with hip-hop cadences. His pieces are fiery laments and in some senses, eulogies, for the contemporary state of man. He calls his attitude “Heroic Pessimism”. In other words, he is clever, skilful, and unapologetically avant-garde. He is an artist nearing the top of his game. Those curious about the bar for great spoken word in Scotland would do well to listen to Gieben’s work. I’ve heard an over-abundance of Howl-spawned litanies, but I forgive Bram his. And that’s saying something.

Gilday is even fresher. The man himself is funny, warm, and charismatic. His pieces are hilarious, ironic without a trace of bitterness (mostly), and humming with the present moment. A piece titled “Found in the Mud” (which might equally be titled “Overheard at Glastonbury”) had most of the room in tears. His Middle Class Love Poem was just as hysterical. Where Gieben is dark and brooding, Gilday is sincere and shrewd. His is an expert form of spoken word for everyman, with strong links to the world of storytelling, and comedy. The man himself is authentic, naturally funny, and effortless. Gilday tells me after the show that it’s tempting for poets to muster their deepest, darkest work for a set, but he likes to offer the audience relief. It is exciting to discover a voice which brings such energy and warmth to material elsewhere laced with acrimony, and an excess of C*words.  I felt sorry for Argos following such wit, although he too had his moments.

Which brings me to the headliner. Argos was funny, I’ll give him that. The material was well-chosen, his transitions were seamless, and he has a natural talent for drawing audiences in. Audiences were treated to a variety of ramblings covering his attention-grabbing youth, his undying narcissism, his foppish cavorts around London, and his antics playing a hoover instead of a musical instrument. Anyone who’s had a chance to read some of his song lyrics, should know not to expect a word-smith at the top of his game. Argos does however, make a tremendous effort to entertain those dedicated enough to listen to his anecdotes. He tries very, very hard. Fans of the band would do well to attend the next few stops on his tour. Fans of comedy too. However, as Argos himself admitted, the “Spoken Word” title seems like a cop-out, a loose term he himself has hurled out without knowing really what it means. He probably wanted to call himself a comedian, but didn’t have the balls.

Argos as a Spoken Word performer is, well, kind of like Argos. You go in, already unsure as to what exactly you’ll end up getting, or how good it’ll be. But it’s shiny, and cheap-ish and the catalogue makes it sound good. So you splash out, and hope for the best, only realizing as you open that weird misshapen box with that old familiar pang, you should probably have spent your time and money somewhere else.But you’ll never have the balls to ask for a refund.

Reviewer : Charlotte Morgan

Rally & Broad

Posted on Updated on

A Dandy, a Martyr, and a Prostitute walk into a bar… ”

Cabaret at Stereo Café

Luke Wright
Luke Wright

It is a truth universally acknowledged that love and money provoke great entertainment and Rally & Broad’s Monthly Cabaret was no exception.  Sunday afternoon at Stereo was a decadent affair. Moustaches twitched. Clowns sang about death. Dazzling story-tellers sold tales of the sex industry. A dandy railed against political witlessness. And to top everything off, musician Jonnie Common delighted the crowd with a weird and wonderful electro-folk set about, well, his friend’s grandma (but in a sexy way).

The afternoon was curated by Rally & Broad (Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum) who are luminous forces to be reckoned with on the contemporary Scottish poetry scene. Their monthly Cabarets in Glasgow (and Edinburgh) provide a space for the more artistically adventurous of folk to soak in the (often experimental) sounds of whichever talent fits the month’s theme. Attendees are sure to hear from some of the UK’s hippest poets, writers, and musicians. Thankfully, the cabaret is well-paced and the bodacious MCs bring a liveliness (and great comic timing) to the afternoon (as well as a poem or two). There are no more than two acts to a section, multiple breaks, a raffle, and even a crowd-sourced poem to cap things off. With plenty of audience interaction, a shot at winning booze or chocolate, and a well-stocked (though expensive) bar in arm’s reach, Glaswegians would be hard pressed to find a more delectable offering from 2:30-5:30pm on a Sunday afternoon.


The linguistic star of the set (in this lowly writer’s eyes) was undoubtedly Luke Wright, a foppish and seriously talented spoken word artist, whose set brimmed with comic irony, originality, and anger. His final (hysterical) piece gave voice to the perverted frustrations of UKIP voters. The piece was brilliant, and the performance devastating. Musical acts Johnnie Common and Creative Martyrs were just as intriguing. Common’s strange and whimsical arrangements were as funny as they were accomplished. Creative Martyrs lent a strange, and phantasmagorical air to the proceedings, drifting between stage and crowd like figments of a dream. Kirstin Innes, author of Fishnet, gave a provocative and spirited reading. Her debut (and meticulously researched novel) tells the story of the sex trade in Scotland. Innes’ stage presence is as provocative as her subject matter, and she was a joy to hear. Rally & Broad also performed a poem each (both have new pamphlets out). Both writers are expert wordsmiths, and bang on the pulse of post-referendum Scotland.

It is a privilege to be served up such prodigious talent once a month in Glasgow. Aspiring poets would do well to spend a Sunday afternoon lazing in the cavernous depths of Stereo, feasting on wine, and expertly crafted entertainment. There are many Cabarets in this vibrant city, few are frequented by such exceptional talent. I wager the billing will continue to shine – Rally & Broad have a lot of talented friends, and the featured poet next month (Caroline Bird) is as sizzling and on-the-mark as Luke wright. Keep an eye on Rally & Broad’s billings. Money may not buy you love, but at a meagre £5, it affords you a hell of an afternoon.

Reviewer : Charlotte Morgan

Photos : Chris Scott

*Note: all Prostitutes involved in the reviewing of this event were purely fictional*

Democracy has never sounded Sexier

Posted on Updated on

Democracy has never sounded Sexier: an Ear-gasmic line-up at Café Siempre


15th April


Politics and performance have always made great bedfellows, and what a terrific meeting of minds Anna Crow curated at Café Siempre last Wednesday night. The vegan-friendly café took on the distinct feel of a speakeasy, as some of Glasgow’s most colourful eco-warriors, artists, and canine companions assembled to share in a night of music, poetry, and performance – held in aid of the Green Party (turns out the right to run for election comes with a hefty price tag).

Glasgow does not suffer from a dearth of gigs, spoken word nights, or poets – but rare is the chance to hear such a well-chosen collection of talent all under the same roof, for a fiver. I wager fans would be hard pressed to hear the likes of Sunshine Social, Monoganon, Something, Someone, or the effervescent Teri Booth for so little, and in so intimate a venue. Add scorching Scottish Slam Champion Bram E. Gieben, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a line up.

Musical highlights included approximately one half of Sunshine Social, who made up for their absent numbers with a stripped-back, harrowing performance; harmonic folk trio Something, Someone; and divine singer-songwriter Teri Booth, who’s “Take me Down” and airy vocal pyrotechnics elicited multiple ear-gasms from the spellbound crowd. Up and Coming poets Liam McCormick and Kirsty Nicolson brought some fiery West-Coast voices the stage, both mixing personal poems with more political pieces, warming the crowd nicely for Martin Bartos (Green Party Candidate), who chose to regale the crowd in verse. Of course, Monoganon and Bram E. Gieban were bound to be fabulous. This reviewer had to dash off early, but I hear Bram is performing again in Glasgow, so tune in next week for a review of his stuff. Other shoutouts include wannabe escapist (and singer-songwriter) Tom Davis – whose distinctive vocals and melancholic ballad provoked audiences to meow along at the end of his set.

Politics reigned supreme at “Supporting Democracy”. In a charity-happy, fundraising-obsessed culture, Supporting Democracy was one of those rare fundraising events where the cause actually took center stage. Zara Kitson’s articulate and on-point speech at half-time was thought-provoking, and articulate. Liam McCormick, Kirsty Nicolson, and Anna Snow performed well-constructed and compelling poetry focused around activism, poverty, and identity. It is exciting to hear young voices using poetry as a platform for political change, and I hope to hear more of this type of work from all three writers. All funds raised on the night will go towards the costs of Green Party electoral candidates.

Supporting Democracy was like a delicious tasting menu of music and performance, with just enough of each treat to satiate my appetite, and a nice long break between courses. The real success of Anna’s night was the prodigious talent she managed to assemble. The atmosphere was intimate, the music was divine, and the beer tasted pretty damn good. Despite the leanings of the organisers, everyone was welcome, Green or not-so-Green. This reviewer spent the night sandwiched between a revolving door of politicians, poets, Monoganon-s, puppies, and a fellow layman or two, without smelling even a whiff of bullshit. In fact, not a single person tried once to hawk a CD, piece of merch, or even ask for my vote. They just wanted me to buy a Green Party Button, and bathe in the delicious sounds of democracy.

Reviewer : Charlotte Morgan

George the Poet

Posted on


Aye Write Festival,

18 April 2015



Spending a Saturday evening, cooped up in a library listening to poetry has never held much weight for this reviewer over the years, but Aye Write! Festival 2015 were unearthing the hottest property in spoken word this evening at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow in the form of George Mpanga aka George The Poet. The 24yr old Londoner has been making quite a stir over the last couple of years, featuring on BBC Radio 1, Sky Sports F1 Grand Prix in Monaco, and being shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice category at the 2015 Brit Awards. An ability to adapt rap into a strong, poetic form has enabled the young lyricist to carry his social and political messages farther than even he could ever have envisaged, and for the second time in the past couple of months, George was ready to win over Glasgow.


From among the hubbub of silver-haired scholars, studious apprentices, and salmon-shirted Aye Write staff directing festival things to their appropriate halls inside Glasgow’s stunning Michell Library, Jean Cameron welcomed George to the stage – headset attached, projector backdrop, comfortable seats for Q+A purposes, and lectern on stage awaiting like a business conference. Although sceptical at this formal layout, the evening settled quickly into the young bard’s calm and likeable approach, reeling off the thought process behind new book ‘Search Party’ (launched February 2015) with anecdotes before each poem.


It is the ability to slip comfortably between academic language and London slang which is George’s most established quality, spouting advice between each articulate, assertive line. It is only the occasional stutter and brief pauses to regroup his thoughts which allow the audience to blink free from being indoctrinated by the poet’s tirade concerning ‘the universality of humanity’. This is not to say that this is an unwanted brainwashing, however peculiar that may seem. It is a positive spiel concerning social groups and opportunities available within communities which the skilled lyricist is administering during “Believer”, rising out of the social groups in which we are all parcelled into. The attentive crowd do not applaud until our speaker chooses to say thank you, and it is perhaps a small intimation that the air feels too heavy and that the guest needs to feel that he has everyone on his side.


In “Scapegoat”, the insightful prognosis that a strong social group offers latitude from life’s difficult times is not a revealing proclamation, but it is the poet’s undertones to fight which veer his work from thoughtful oracle into motivational speaker. As he states himself, George loves a validated argument and his curiosity in problem-solving and seeking solutions within corporate circles occasionally jars between being on the cusp of enlightened, radical thought-processes and the enterprising mission statements one finds in the reception areas of big business. Indeed, tonight’s orator cleverly uses the incantation of human growth and technological advances to surprising effect in one poem:


“There are seven billion people in the world

and not one has the same fingerprint as you”.


If George was selling a product, then it would be self discovery and how to progress oneself. The lesson of learning from one’s failures is addressed in the questions and answer session after a half hour set, wherein his advice to younger poets is not to ever consider themselves ‘lesser’ at the beginning of their journey, but to embrace that transition of human experience. Using commentators and an assortment of heroes such as Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou as an example of anyone who can articulate an ethos, George’s observation that one newspaper referring to him as a ‘rapper’ may border on racism is food for thought, and addresses exactly where ‘the poet’ moniker begins. The slow and deliberate responses, articulating his experiences, lends tonight’s performer as being both considerate and respectful, always seeking ways to add value to his words.

photo (1)


Satire frequently breathes inside of George’s messages, and from experiences ranging from reading in UK prisons to Buckingham Palace, a broad spectrum has now listened to his positive rhetoric and unabashed plugs for his new book – or ‘manifesto’, as he calls it. Tonight was a fascinating experience which left the crowd with a lot on their minds with the upcoming elections only weeks away. If the young poet’s proclamation that we are all in boxes used to manipulate political standing, it will be interesting to listen to what he has to say once the ballots have been crossed and the results are in. Don’t be surprised if, one day, you find yourself voting for George Mpanga’s Search Party.

Reviewer : Stephen Watt


Poetry Café : featuring Erin Pornoff

Posted on Updated on

Studio Theatre, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews.
7th March 2015


As this is going to be my last  review at StAnza this year I would like, first of all, to thank the organisers for making me welcome, for putting up with my being underfoot, and for letting me have a replacement ticket when I lost one. It was great to meet the poets – nice to bump into John Dennison again today and, after eavesdropping on an interview, have a few minutes’ chat with him and learn that, yes, our reviews are read by their subjects – and I made my daughter jealous by tweeting that I had been in the same room as Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully. Well, that actually means I happened to be in the bar with actor Clive Russell. Anyway…

My last poetry, pie, and Peroni session was a treat. Erin Fornoff, born in North Carolina and now based in Ireland, gave us a shorter and gentler presentation that the preceding ‘Poetry Cafés’, so much so that we were all unsure whether to clap at the end of each poem. To clap is very much a ‘Poetry Café’ thing; not to clap is very much a formal ‘reading’ thing.

Erin Fornoff 1 (c) Bookseeker

Erin has learned to memorize the poetry she presents live, ever since she was due on stage to give a reading, grabbed her notes, and, when she stepped up to the microphone, found that she had picked up someone’s schedules for gym sessions. She gave us a programme of twelve poems in all, not all of which were memorized, it must be said, but all of which were engaging and delightful. They ranged from a tribute to the way people in New Orleans had been through Hurricane Katrina and come back to resume their lives, to the reaction of a Texan removed to Appalachia and seeing snow for the first time. Introducing one about living across the Atlantic, in a strange country, in a cottage miles from anywhere overlooking the Irish Sea, she mentioned that it turned out to be lonely – “Who knew?” I particularly liked the poem ‘My Father is a Skydiver’, in which she described her father’s growing old as ‘becoming less tall’; also ‘Moonshine’, in which she played with the meaning of the word ‘proof’.

Best of all, though, was ‘Opposite of a Thank You’. How to explain it? It was an esprit d’escalier piece, directed at a former mentor, someone who had encouraged her work at college, only to eventually suggest a liaison because he had ‘contacts in the literary world’. I’m glad to say this is available on YouTube, so just go there and search for her name and the title, and enjoy!

Nothing more to say, except perhaps we could have done with a couple more poems from her – as I said, the session seemed to be over in a trice. Identical to a thank you Erin, and identical to a thank you StAnza.

Review by Paul Thompson

Meet the Artist: BodySearches/Poetry Machine featuring Michiel Koelink and Jon Ståle Ritland

Posted on Updated on

Conference Room, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews.
7th March 2015


The Conference Room is not the most attractive venue at the Byre, being bare, airless, and humming, but it does have the advantage of technology. It is easy to set up a laptop there with a feed to a screen. If StAnza-goers had been observant, they would have noticed occasionally on the wall of the theatre Atrium, a series of projected phrases zooming in and out of prominence, and maybe wondered what they were. This session was designed to give an explanation, or at least go some way towards it.

Michiel Koelink is Dutch, and Jon Ståle Ritland is Norwegian, but writes poetry in English. They met at StAnza two years ago, had a meeting of minds, and decided to collaborate. The raw materials were Jon’s poetry, in particular works from his book Body Searches, and Michiel’s dexterity with computers. He gave us a quick display of how his software plays with Jon’s words, fixing each phrase to a dot, and the dots attached to each other by lines. There is a central point of ‘gravity’ on the screen to which everything is attracted, but working against that the dots push away from each other while the lines tend to pull back. No, I don’t understand why it doesn’t all end in equilibrium, but it doesn’t. It moves, and phrases emerge into the foreground in an apparently random fashion. The sequences generated do not seem to repeat themselves; Michiel explained it by the analogy of throwing a glass of wine into the sea, and then bringing the glass back twenty-four hours later – it is mathematically possible to scoop up something that is one hundred percent wine, but it is very, very unlikely.

Jon Ståle Ritland & Michiel Koelink 2 (c) Bookseeker

Then Jon gave us a reading of some of his poems. Here the session came unstuck a little, because he has a very quiet delivery, so we struggled to hear well. Perhaps next time there should be a little light amplification provided – it only needed a touch. After that it was Michiel’s turn again to take us through some of the ideas he had been working on prior to their collaboration, which inspired and fed into it.


Michiel Koelink 1 (c) Bookseeker


We had the opportunity to comment and ask questions, which was quite fruitful and prompted a handful of people to speak up. I commented that the effect reminded me of how a touch-screen tablet responds to swooshes and pinches of its operator’s fingers, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if that could be incorporated in the project. Michiel nodded and said that the idea had indeed occurred to them but it was way, way over their available budget.

I’m not going to award stars for this event, because it wasn’t that kind of event – but yes, I enjoyed it, and it sent me away musing on how conventionally we read poetry.

Review by Paul Thompson

Ritlandj's Poem
Ritlandj’s Poem

Saba Douglas-Hamilton: A Life With Elephants 

Posted on Updated on

Empire Theatre – Eden Court Inverness 
Thursday 05 March 
 This is a rare opportunity to hear first hand account of studying, watching and living in an amazing environment filled with stunning animals. Saba was able to effortlessly talk about her experiences of her time living in Africa, she comanded the stage throughout, utilising some of the amazing photos and clips she has collected over her time living and working with animals. Her passion for both the country she lives in and also the animals that live there is very apparent from the start.
 During this talk she concentrated on elephants and their continuing fight for suvival due to the ivory trade. She was very passionate on this subject and brought the audience in on the plight faced by these magnificent creatures. Later on she also brought up how giraffes are facing a crisis in recent years because of bush meat trade.  Throughout the evening  the audience are treated to many very personal stories and funny anecdotes from a wealth of experience through from her life growing up in Africa to her various roles for the BBC researching and filming wildcats and elephants for her conservation work.
This talk certainly provides food for thought regarding conservation issues currently faced by elephants and the problems for those who are trying to protect them. By the end you will be hard pressed not feel empathy for the animals and passion for the great work being done.  I cannot recommend this highly enough to people passionate about animals and conservation. The talk will be repeated March the 9th in Edinburgh at the Lyceum.
Reviewer : Lucy Tonkin

Poetry Café : Owen O’Neill.

Posted on

Studio Theatre, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews.
6th March 2015

Owen O'Neill (c) Bookseeker

I have a funny story about when I had a stammer. It really is a very funny story. But then there’s this Irish bloke called Owen O’Neill who has a really, really, really funny story about when he had a stammer, and he wrote a letter about the IRA and sent it to a newspaper, and the newspaper only went and printed it, and the IRA sent someone round to the cottage where he was staying to convince him of the error of his ways. And this someone had a stammer…

This is the Poetry Café, and that means you get a pie and a bottle of beer thrown in with your ticket. The wise StAnza-goer bolts his or her pie quickly, and then nurses the beer-bottle between his or her feet, like a penguin guarding an egg. This is necessary. It’s particularly necessary for a session with Owen O’Neill, because you would drop it laughing, or break a tooth if you happened to be taking a swig at the time. Owen, you see, is one hell of a raconteur – and I don’t mind betting he’d hate being called that. But he is a stand-up comedian as well as a poet, and what he actually did for his café-spot was take us on a tour of the people he has met, from his childhood in County Tyrone right up until he recently named his grand-daughter. If you go to see him anywhere, be prepared for his tale of being struck by lightning, or to hear about Miss O’Brien the headmistress at his school and her attitude to his imaginative picture of Christ escaping crucifixion, or to hear about when he, aged nine, decided to confess to ‘a sin of impurity’ because it sounded good, or to hear about Mary Cassidy and why she was called ‘The Virgin Mary’ and why she thought he had the power of healing. Oh yeah, and the stammer, you have to be prepared for that one.

The eight or so poems he managed to fit in around all this story-telling, described many of the same encounters and events; or if not them, they explored the possibility that Lazarus was not dead but having a long lie-in, or who was the odd child at the edge of the school photo, or what is so brilliant about navvies. By comparison with the stories, the poems were serious, or had a seriousness about them. Where they told the same story, they did so on a slightly different plane. Poems and tales, the one sparked off the other. I can’t think of a better way of getting indigestion from bolting a pie. Five stars, right off. Thank you, StAnza.


Review by Paul Thompson

Border Crossings : Hazel Frew and Martin Glaz Serup

Posted on Updated on


Supper Room. Town Hall, St Andrews.
6th March 2015

I have a piece of advice for the people running StAnza, a very simple piece of advice, and it is this: When you have given a poet twenty-five minutes to fill, make sure there is a pocket-watch duct-taped to the podium, so that he or she can gauge how much time is left of the session. What happened this afternoon with Hazel Frew is that having finished a run of poems, and got to minute twenty-five, she then picked up a book, looked across at the chap in charge, and asked “How long have I got?” He, being a polite chap and not wanting her to end her session abruptly, said “About another five minutes.” She ended up with a total of thirty-five minutes, having read us two dozen poems. Now, I have nothing against hearing twenty-four poems by Hazel Frew, because she is after all a good poet, but once again a ‘Border Crossings’ session was badly balanced when it didn’t need to be.

Hazel Frew (c) Bookseeker

Hazel was brought up in Broughty Ferry but now lives in Glasgow. She expresses a preference for poetry that is ‘direct, but in an indirect way’. When her mother died of cancer, the shock was so great that it took a long time for her to get over writer’s block. It was only broken when the local authority in Glasgow decided to demolish a public garden and fell some trees that had been standing for well over a hundred years. She was then able to write about her mother’s illness, from diagnosis to death, and she presented us with fifteen poems about this. They were serious to the point of being sombre, and they were very, very emotional. Her part of the event was then lightened a little by readings from her book Seahorses, and from a couple of pamphlets, but as I said, it over-ran.

Martin Glaz Serup (c) Bookseeker

Martin Glaz Serup is from Denmark, and writes in both Danish and English – I instantly thought back to the previous day’s ‘Poetry Café’ in which Agnes Török, who is from the other side of the Øresund Bridge, had a few pointed remarks about bilingualism. He read to us in both languages, mainly, he said, so we would hear how they sounded in Danish. His poems were much longer than Hazel’s; with the Danish versions and extracts, he was only able to give us half-a-dozen. These were full of questions, rhetorical questions mostly, or so we were (possibly) led to believe – weren’t we? The first one included hand-gestures, in lieu of a PowerPoint presentation, to indicate each question mark or Yes/No option. Here’s a question:

Do you have to be happy in order to write a poem about happiness
or should you, precisely, not be happy
should you be made happy by reading it

Please note the complete lack of question marks! I like that. Martin’s poems travel from point A to point Z, not necessarily in alphabetical steps, but they get there. And don’t be surprised when a famous name or two are dropped.

Reviewed by Paul Thompson

StAnza International Poetry Festival ‘Border Crossings’ : Kim Moore and John Dennison.

Posted on Updated on


Supper Room. Town Hall, St Andrews.
5th March 2015

I have to say I am not sure where ‘Border Crossings’ stops and ‘An Archipelago of Poetry’ starts. John Dennison is from New Zealand which certainly counts as an island. Kim Moore is from Barrow in Furness, but unless she’s actually from Walney Island… oh wait, why can we never remember that the bulk of the UK is, in fact, an island? Certainly both Kim and John have crossed borders to get here anyway, and Kim has zigged and zagged across the UK by train to do so.

The venue has a very ‘civic’ feel to it, and straight away the audience knows it is not at a slam (where many of them were twenty minutes earlier) but at a reading. Not that there isn’t wit to be heard, but is embedded in poetry that demands and repays attention.

Kim Moore (c) Bookseeker

Kim Moore is the daughter of a scaffolder, and has been a teacher of the trumpet for eleven years. She describes ‘her’ people thus:

I come from people who swear without realising they’re swearing.
I come from scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers,
the type of carers paid pence per minute to visit an old lady’s house.
Some of my people have been inside a prison.  Sometimes I tilt
towards them and see myself reflected back…

She prefers to record her poetry in a hardback book rather than ‘scrappy papers’, because that way it is ‘more real’. Some of her work deals with harsh facts, such as domestic violence, in metaphor. Other poems, such as ‘A psalm for the Scaffolders’ are celebratory. Others still are blackly funny, such as the curse of a trumpet teacher in return for the various atrocities committed by her pupils, in which she changed the gender of the perpetrators to protect their identities. Or so she says!

John Dennison (c) Bookseeker

John Dennison’s poetry needs more careful listening still. His poems are shorter, nothing much longer than a sonnet, and when he reads them we are aware of the way he wants his words stressed. There is a careful pace to them, and an apparent deliberation in their construction. His background as a chaplain comes to the fore in, for example, a piece he describes as a ‘Jonah poem’ set in the hold of a ferry, or a poem about climate change based on the story of Balaam’s ass from Numbers 22, or one that points out how like a Madonna and child the common ampersand is – that’s ‘&’ to you and me. His poetry is remarkable.

I would like to give this event five stars. I can’t, I have to take a little bit of the shine off the fifth star, and here’s why. The balance between the two poets wasn’t quite right, and all it would have taken to restore it was one extra poem being given to Kim Moore. Maybe because John Dennison’s poems were short and there were more of them, it felt as though he had more time, as he shuffled to and fro in his book for the next one to read. I admit I didn’t check my watch, I just went away with that impression. As regards the actual quality of the material, and its delivery by both poets, I couldn’t fault it.

Reviewed by Paul Thompson