This year we had not one but two events in Montrose for National Poetry Day (on the Thursday Raymond Vettese and I did a reading in the town library – it went well, thanks for asking...). This two event scenario meant that some people turned up at the Links on Friday night asking 'how long does the festival go on?' Heavens above - we'd only morphed into a festival without even knowing it? Amazing! See how these things can happen...
Anyway, the Friday night event is the one that concerns us here so let's have a quick look at how it all went.
First up were the three poets from Colin Will's Calder Wood Press. I had read all three of these poets on page and screen but had never heard any of them read their own work aloud so much anticipation in the area. Now how did they do..? We started with...
Juliet Wilson (known to many of us as Edinburgh's Crafty Green Poet) came fresh from a day's birdwatching... and would it be odd of me to say there's something of the bird about her too? Slight, mesmerising, taut, intense... I found Juliet quite fascinating to watch and as she read her poem about, say, geese at least a little part of me was wondering if she might just pop out some wings and fly off round the room at some point. Also she read with a seriousness that slightly surprised me (not sure why... maybe it's all the talk of rabbits and making bright, pretty, crafty things on her blog) and though serious is fine I did wonder if some of that was to do with being the ice-breaker, as it were, and taking a little while to relax into her flight. It's always a friendly audience at the Links though so by the time she got to her last poem ('Mushrooms'?) I'd say she was really enjoying herself. Getting nearer soaring maybe...
Number two from CWP was Morgan Downie (the man many of us first knew as Swiss).
Morgan looked slighter than I remembered him too (he must have been hard at it on the bike...) and like Juliet he'd gone for the all-in-black look (good job I'd decided against mine... we'd have looked like the staff at a funeral parlour!). Morgan was very much as I hoped he would be as a reader – confident, clever, kind of charming (without being charming, if you know what I mean). He transported us well and truly to the Western Isles (largely along with his collection 'stone and sea') and he read with that mixture of love and horror for a place that can work so well when it's done right. He said he grew up watching Dave Allen (me too, me too!) and given a whole night to himself I can quite see the storyteller in Morgan coming out to play with the poet, as it were. A high stool, a glass of something and it could easily get to 'tell us another one, Morgan, tell us another' (but next time read my favourite, eh - 'the stone bible' – it's here).
Finally in this section we heard from Anna Dickie
Anna blogs here but not very much any more – sensible woman). I've loved Anna's book 'Heart Notes' but really had no idea how she would be on stage, under the very hot Links lights, facing a fairly big crowd. And she was... really perfect. Her introductions were dry and spiky (in good ways), the poems flowed beautifully and her whole section was varied, captivating and compelling. I saw quite a few people leaving with copies of 'Heart Notes' clutched in their hands at the end of the night, put it that way.
After this trio of poets it was time for the musical part of the night – the choir Loadsaweeminsingin from Dundee.
I've seen the Weemin several times before and absolutely LOVE their energetic, uplifting performances (and Sarah, their choir leader, really sets the standard in this regard). For us at the Links on Friday night the Weemin were on great form (and I was pleased they made it – the roads were thick with fog right up the east coast). They sang their usual great range of material and featured, I'm thrilled to say, the song 'Before I drop' that consists of words by me and tune by blogger's own Dominic Rivron (he wrote the tune for it back here, remember?). If you get a chance to see this choir don't miss it – they really are a joy to hear (and watch – so expressive, so bright).
As ever in between acts I did a poem (and a bit of rambling) here and there.
My poems this time were an oldish Poetry Bus one, that 'Rank and file' one from last week (it's here – decided to go for it in the end) and a new one (for my Mum) about 'Strictly Come Dancing' and heaven (I'll maybe post that last one over on the other blog next week or so). As usual with me it's not one for the Bloodaxe anthologies I suppose... but really life's too short to be worrying about all that – let's tango, let's fall over now and again... let's live!
Finally, after the interval, it was time for Tim Turnbull to take centre stage.
Having heard so much about him from other poets I was really looking forward to seeing and hearing Tim perform... and there was no disappointment – none at all. In his distinctive smart attire (he's part very good boy, part naughtiest child in the school...) Tim set about really entertaining us for the rest of the evening – a high energy, focused approach that really kept the crowd with him (through long poems and short). Over the course of the night he sang, he joked, he scared us a bit, he made the full range of interesting faces and gestures... but most of all he read poem after poem after poem – each one as original and packed full of cracking language and prickling insight as the last. I don't think there was a boring moment in the whole set – nothing predictable, nothing bland, not a hint of 'if I just say this in a poetry voice you'll have to like it or you're stupid'. And the audience, my dears, why we loved him (oh, yes we did).
So that's it for another year. Thanks to all who helped on the night, to T Duncan & Co. for their sponsorship contribution and to my nearest and dearest for their patience and support in all matters poetrical. Big special thanks to our lovely friend Scott Henriksen for the photos too. I've no immediate plans for any more events (got lots of other stuff going on..) but who knows... in poetry anything can happen... can't it..?