Salisbury's open mic 2016

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Poetika XXXVIII – Duffy’s Echo

Despite the fact the Poet Laureate did not attend our meeting on Wednesday – probably because she hadn’t been invited – we had another good turnout including new faces and some welcome returners. Many followed our theme by reading some of Carol Ann Duffy’s work, but there were plenty of original contributions too.’Parking seems to be getting harder, despite the large Brown Street car park behind our venue, so it may be worth allowing an extra few minutes if you’re coming by car.

David King did the customary introductions before beginning with Prayer by Ms Duffy – “the truth enters our hearts, that small familiar pain” then followed with something of his own, though he “can’t stay here, because the air’s too thin”. Graham ‘Gray’ Turner continued by “feeding the chickens that laid the golden eggs on our fantasy world”, then Edwin read us History by Ms Duffy – “She’d seen them ease him down from the Cross, his mother gasping for breath, as though his death was a difficult birth”.

Vic brought us a musical interlude where he sang of Salisbury’s dancing man, where watchers were ‘itching to move their feet’, then Mike dribbled about ‘toddlers with tools they may grow up to use”. John made sure he was first to jump the Christmas gun by reading the Laureate’s ‘Christmas Eve’, before reminding us all of the sad news that Leonard Cohen had died, by reading his ‘Poem’ – “I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside our door “. David Robinson followed this with a further tribute to Cohen – ‘The Stranger Song ‘ – “I told you when I came I was a stranger”, before James surprised us all with his assertion that he knew Carol Ann Duffy “before she was gay”.

It was nice to see Papa Webb back to wonder why King Kong or Godzilla had never won an Oscar, and how he’d been “at sea all day, and caught Rockall”, and Inga, who told of “blue grey eyes, that make women want you”, and she wished “that you could be me, for one hour”. Nicky followed with ‘Stealing’, by Carol Ann Duffy – “You don’t understand a word I’m saying, do you?” before performing one of her own – “uncertainty is the new certainty”.

Alison read Cohen’s ‘A thousand Kisses Deep’ – “And then consented to be wrecked, A Thousand Kisses Deep”, Lenka then gave us her Autumn Sketch – “is an afternoon walk, before the dusk brings its dark shadows”, and David King wound up the first half with another from Duffy – ‘Drunk’ – “unseen frogs belch in the damp grass” – was he suggesting something?

The second half saw David King get us going with Duffy’s ‘Litany’ – “A tiny ladder ran up Mrs Barr’s American Tan leg”, before David Robinson returned with a short selection from her collection ‘The World’s Wife’ – including Mrs Icarus and Mrs Darwin. Mike was back with more flash fiction – “squinting through a wall you’ve always found opaque”, and Papa Webb entertained us again with a cautionary tale about the dragon at the door.

It was Vic’s turn again and he brought us Duffy’s ‘The Dark’ – “there’s nothing to be frightened of at all. (Except for aliens…)” then performed for us Leonard Cohen’s famous ‘Bird on the Wire’. Inga returned having been asked “do you want a hand with that, Luv” and told “get down you crazy mare”, and Nicky told us “this kid’s so unpopular, even my imaginary friends have left me”. Lenka treated us to a short children’s poem in her native Czech, ‘Little Bear’, and was good enough to translate it into English for us too. David King then closed proceedings, warning us that “time is a thief in black and white” and that “we rarely notice how fast slowness happens.
It was another great meeting, and thank you all – everyone who came to share their and others’ work, and also those who came just to listen. Our next meeting will be the Christmas one – now we meet on the third Wednesday this means it will be very close to Christmas – on the 21st of December – and we do hope you’ll be able to come.

We’ll be meeting in a different venue to leave the Cloisters free for Christmas dinners and also to allow us to bring our own Yuletide refreshments – so make a note – for next month only we’ll be meeting in St Thomas’s house – on the corner of the walk through between Dinghams and Cote Brasserie (was Snells) – St Thomas’s Square. Opposite St Thomas’s church. We’ll be providing mince pies and a little alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshment as there is no bar (you are welcome to bring your own), and our theme will be Christmas – and traditionally we celebrate the lighter side of the season – so bring your more humorous work! But more details in our event invitation nearer the date.

To finish off, it was interesting to hear from David Robinson that there is a longer version (finally finished in 2009) of Leonard Cohen’s ‘A thousand Kisses Deep’ than the one Alison read – so here it is:

A Thousand Kisses Deep

You came to me this morning
And you handled me like meat.
You´d have live alone to know
How good that feels, how sweet.
Anonymous, and hard, and fast –
(I´d know you in my sleep) –
Then born together, born at last
A thousand kisses deep.

I loved you when you opened
Like a lily to the heat.
I´m just another snowman
Standing in the rain and sleet,
Who loved you with his frozen love
His second-hand physique –
With all he is, and all he was
A thousand kisses deep.

All soaked in sex, and pressed against
The limits of the sea:
I saw there were no oceans left
For scavengers like me.
We made it to the forward deck
I blessed our remnant fleet –
And then consented to be wrecked
A thousand kisses deep.

It´s true that you could lie to me
It´s true you could to cheat
The means no longer guarantee
The virtue in deceit.
That truth is bent, that beauty spent,
That style is obsolete –
O since the Holy Spirit went
A thousand kisses deep.

(So what about this inner Light
That´s boundless and unique?
I´m slouching through another night
A thousand kisses deep.)

I´m turning tricks; I´m getting fixed,
I´m back on Boogie Street.
I tried to quit the business –
Hey, I´m lazy and I´m weak.
But sometimes when the night is slow,
The wretched and the meek,
We gather up our hearts and go
A thousand kisses deep.

(And fragrant is the thought of you,
The file is now complete –
Except what we forgot to do
A thousand kisses deep.)

The ponies run, the girls are young,
The odds are there to beat.
You win a while, and then it´s done –
Your little winning streak.
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat,
You live your life as if it´s real
A thousand kisses deep.

(I jammed with Diz and Dante –
I did not have their sweep –
But once or twice, they let me play
A thousand kisses deep.)

And I´m still working with the wine,
Still dancing cheek to cheek.
The band is playing “Auld Lang Syne” –
The heart will not retreat.
And maybe I had miles to drive,
And promises to keep –
Your ditch it all to stay alive
A thousand kisses deep.

And now you are the Angel Death
And now the Paraclete;
Now you are the Quickening Breath
And now the Belsen heap.
No turning from the threat of love,
No acrobatic leap –
As witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep

Beautiful as he always is

Andover Story telling club starts this Thursday at Lunar Hare 7.45pm

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 Hare Today Story club, Thursday, 13th October,7.45-10 pm in The Snug,The Lunar Hare, Weyhill Road,AndoverAdmission Free

Come and listen, come and tell
Run by Mike Rogers 

Story, story! Who wants to hear a story? Everyone, of course.

“Once upon a time…”

“Come on! That’s just for kids!”

“All right – last Tuesday – ”

“That’s better!”

“… in a galaxy far, far away…”

“What?”

Stories are stories, they pick us up and they take us away, sometimes into other worlds, sometimes inside ourselves, to places we’ve never been or didn’t know were there. They bring us face to face with new things and with old things, and often the old things turn out to be new things, because we’re looking at them from another side.

Reading is good. You can do it anywhere, anytime, if there’s enough light to see. It disturbs no one. But it is a solitary vice.

Listening to a story, on the other hand, is something social. There is an interaction with the teller – they notice the reaction of you, the listener, and they can adjust their story to it. Actors on a stage, in a normal play, would find that much harder. They usually have a text to stick to. A storyteller only has a story – and they can tell it in the way they feel like at that very moment. What occurs to them – what occurs to you – it can all find a place in that story.

I have been telling stories for fourteen years. I have been writing stories since I was eight, and when I first came to Southampton Story Club I used to read aloud the stories I had written. I had written them to sound as though they were being told, so they had digressions and interruptions and spaces for audience reaction. Sometimes I still like to perform my stories that way, because a written story can be a lot more precise and complicated and detailed than a told one – it’s the relationship between lace and knitting. But mostly I tell.

What do I tell? Stories I like. Stories that go into me easily, because they fit my nature. I tell Greek myths. I tell Norse myths. I tell wonder-tales from Russia, with the Firebird in them. I tell stories from Japan, sad ones and happy ones. I tell classic folktales from Europe, as written by Perrault or collected by the Brothers Grimm. [I can tell stories in French and German as well.] I tell Jewish stories. I tell stories from Afghanistan and stories from the Arabian Nights.

I also tell stories that are true, if they have the right shape and feel. I have told the story of the first maypole in New England, at Merrymount, and the trouble it caused among the devout New Englanders. I have told the story of George Vancouver and his conflict with Mike Rogers Thomas Pitt, second Baron Camelford, and compared it with the behaviour of Maquinna, the chief of one of the tribes on Nootka Sound, which Vancouver explored and mapped. I have told the story of ‘Don Patricio’, the Irish international footballer and football manager, who saved Barcelona FC in the Spanish Civil War. I have told the story of Grayson Perry’s tapestry sequence, The Vanity of Small Differences.

There are stories everywhere. We make them up all the time. We change them and they change us. They are one of the ways in which we try to come to terms with the world.

I am always telling the same stories, and I am always hunting for new ones, and I am always thinking about how I can tell the old ones differently. I can also help people to tell stories – stories about themselves, about their lives up to now, about the way they would like their lives to be in the future. Imagination is the key to freedom – in the inner world and in the outer one.