Roundabout Nights Presents Ira Lightman
Wordsworth famously remarked that ‘poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity’. So, by extension, poetry reviewing is (mild) inebriation recollected in tranquillity. Though to be honest on Thursday 10th November at Poco Loco, I could have got drunk on the words alone. Barry and Sam Fentiman-Hall have been building their Roundabout Nights brand for some time now, as part of Wordsmithery,an organisation deservedly recognised by Medway Council in its cultural awards last year. Having been somewhat peripatetic, The Nights have found a spiritual home at Poco, which has been hosting the monthly-ish spoken word event for a year now, providing a space for the dazzling array of talent in the Delta to perform to their peers and an animated public. Thursday’s poetical showcase welcomed Radio 3 regular, Ira Lightman, to join the Medway cohort on the main stage at Poco, at the conclusion of which, the audience left in the knowledge that they had been privy to something rather special.
Performing alongside Ira was a who’s who of Delta poets, poets formerly of the parish, and Ira. Master of Ceremonies was Barry FH, who as ever discharged his duty with wit and aplomb to navigate us spectators through the verdant versifiers. Barry read from his recent collection, ‘The Unbearable Sheerness of Being‘, enthralling with his dazzling verbal pyrotechnics and consummate delivery. I cannot recall the exact running order of who came thereafter, but will seek to iterate each in turn.
Barry was followed by his fellow Wordsmith, Sam FH, who read from her submission to the recent Assemblance of Judicious Heretics text-art exhibition which is still on at Rochester Library. A riff on the Hamlet story, Sam has a wry, delicate touch infused with wit and a soupcon of mischief. Following was the marvellous Sam Rapp, who is developing a reputation for spoken word not only in Medway, but beyond, and on the evidence of Thursday night, it’s not difficult to see why. Sam is a fearless and passionate poet who elevates a reading into performance art. Catch her when you can. For anyone with an interest in spoken word in the Delta, Maria McCarthy will be a reassuringly familiar name. Co-founder of the Cultured Llama imprint, Maria has been a charming and beguiling presence on the scene for many years and so it proved again on Thursday. Maria has a poet’s eye and ear for the detail and spins it into something satisfying, both intellectually and emotionally.
Clair Meyrick is a proud, polished and poised poet, unafraid of taking on any issue from the heart to the head, and all points in between. Clair has visibly grown as a writer and performer through Roundabout Nights and it was again a pleasure to witness her maturity. What is there to say about Neill ‘Razz’ Saunders that hasn’t already been said? The man is quite rightly a Medway institution. He’s been writing poems for aeons and somehow manages to get better and better. He has a presence and command which inspires intimacy and Thursday was a platform for his playful, beautifully observed poems which come from the soul. Anyone labouring under the misapprehension that spoken word events are fusty and, whisper it, dull, would have been converted by the performance of Joanne Murray, whose poems had the audience creased with laughter, with pieces worthy of the late, great Victoria Wood.
The second stanza of the evening climaxed with Ira, but before that there were two poetical titans, Philip Kane and Dan Simpson. Philip has been writing and performing poetry in Medway for four decades and gaining a reputation for exquisite, beautifully observed and rendered poetry. Philip showcased these gifts on Thursday with delicate verses where every word had its place and purpose. I hadn’t encountered former Canterbury Poet Laureate Dan Simpson before Thursday, but will make a point of seeking him out in future. And suggest you do likewise. Supremely confident delivery married superlative writing for a coruscating set, the only criticism of which was it was too short. Dan ceded the stage to headliner, Ira Lightman, a poet who has steadily built quite a reputation and who was reading from his most recent collection, ‘Goose’. Ira’s performance was, above all, great fun. Delivered with gusto and a knowing and theatrical wink, he again destroyed any preconception or misconception some may have about contemporary poetry. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be party to someone operating at the very heights of his powers, but also in the knowledge that there is more yet to come.
Interested or intrigued by what you’ve read? The next Roundabout Nights is on Monday 5th December, 7.30pm, at Poco Loco, where we will hear readings fromFrater XII Irrumabo’s debut collection, ‘Fear Death By Water’. Not to be missed, I’d say.
Roundabout Nights www.facebook.com/roundaboutnights
Ira Lightman www.twitter.com/iralightman
Photography by Barry Fentiman-Hall