Monday, 17 March 2008

Underground poetry

The trouble with poetry in cafés is the noises off - in this case a mildly irritating air conditioning unit and (for a few minutes) a vacuum cleaner upstairs. It didn't really matter, though. We were warm.

James Nash is such a kind and amiable compere that everyone present ended up feeling kind and amiable too. The Sunday afternoon session began with James reading a few of his best-known published pieces and that set the tone for the next two hours.

He made humorous references to timings, threatening to gag performers who strayed past the five minute limit with his own hand. It worked. This must be the most worrying thing about being a poetry compere - people just going on and on indulgently. Well they didn't. In one or two cases, the audience would have loved them to go on and on, but they stuck to the limits. James's yoke is easy.

As in the Café Lento the previous day, it was little things, small incidents, large musings. There seemed to be more published volumes about - slim tomes lovingly produced. The poets' places of origin seemed more important as well......Belfast, South Carolina, Liverpool......formative influences. Now here they all were in a cellar in Headingley.

"We should do this more often," was heard as a happy audience, pogged-out on poetry, climbed the stairs to brave the cold wind outside. We should.

Below, James Nash, Sheila Chapman from Irish poets' group Lucht Focail, the audience.

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