I attended the Uncut Poets with Harry Guest last night at the Phoenix Arts Centre. This was part of the Exeter Poetry Festival and I did particularly want to see Harry read.
My poem that follows seems the most apt way to characterise the evening. I could only stay for the first part, but as Harry read during this, that was perfect. I also enjoyed the other open-mic performers I saw where the eclecticism of such a night is given its free voice.
The poem is as the evening was, with only the very slightest licence. The dancing above was a little annoying, but also hilarious – not the dancing itself, I’m sure, but its second-hand intrusions.
Poetry Reading with Harry Guest
I wrote this one in my head…
At the front, the fold-away table’s legs are
taped together to stop any words from
collapsing and falling to the floor.
A poet sitting next to me – we are all writers,
surely – has friends currently out in Baghari
as I read the text message over her shoulder.
Another to my right and in the front row has
one loaf of wholemeal bread in a carrier bag
from which she could later recite her slices of life.
The first reader has secreted a series on molluscs
to now un-shell and let crawl around our seats.
Open-mic number two is introduced –
James Taylor! – and a swift correction follows
of his surname, then the cover-up joke on how
he might serenade us with You’ve Got a Friend,
the bum note of irony immediate when
James introduces the first poem titled No 13 from
a sequence about his loneliness and depression.
Harry reads after the fifth, first of the two invited
writers with his surname aptly as one Guest.
His words fill the room with softly spoken
certainties, his own and translations mainly from
the French, Jean Cassou’s Trente-trois sonnets
composés au secret, poems composed in his head
when in Vichy prison. Harry’s love of language
also resists the boundaries of what it is that divides,
even tonight where in the performance room above,
busy feet of the Bharatanatyam dancing competes.
I leave at the break, miss the next five and other guest,
but I have a poem to recall at home and transcribe.
One of Harry’s more recent poems The Last Intruder – superb – is posted at the excellent Stride magazine here.