Monday 13 January 2014

Wimbledon and Merton Poets - Critique Circle

Robin Vaughan-Williams
Its been a slow start to 2014 with a quiet blanket of London rain stubbornly lazing across my usual Jazz nights. My dark hours have been spent instead preparing for an exhibition of Art inspired by Poetry at the Village Hall Trust Gallery in Wimbledon this March. The JawSpring exhibition is sending 27 poems from the Wimbledon & Merton Poets to artists around the world and exhibiting the resulting artworks on their doorstep.

Andy V Frost
Before Christmas I took the opportunity to walk straight into the heart of South London's poetry den. So enthused by this experience I came back for more (07/01/2014), this time armed with pens and paper. The Merton Poets meet on the first Tuesday of every month at the Raynes Park Methodist Church Café. After warm greetings they settle down in a circle and you find yourself facing searching eyes, hands grabbling photocopied poems, all ready to be released. This is both a chance to perform and to have your work critiqued. This was a regular occurrence in my student days, one which wasn't entirely pleasant at the hands of spikey art students. Here there is a energy and frisson when performing but also humour and encouragement for any aspiring poet.

Tony Josolyne

The man who broke the circle by standing first was 'Big Mouth' poet Andy V Frost. He is one of the most vocal of the Merton Poets. This is a man who is a comfortable performer and his growling demeanour translates strongly into his poetic delivery. Frost draws his inspiration from his frequent road trips on his trusty motorcycle but it isn't all leather jackets and Ton Ups. Although he conducted a straw poll on whether to use Capricious or Viscous in his poem 'Aftermath', most eyes fell on the phrase 'Umbrella Graveyard' to describe the suburban streets between Morden and Mitcham.

Partick McManus
Tony Josolyne with the smiling eyes gave us his sweet laden poem 'Lollipop' with its dark ending. You can image the amiable Josolyne as the Lollipop Man in his poem, with his alert brain and welcoming face, but not even his quick wits could have saved the children in this tale. I learn as much from listening to the comment afterwards as the poem itself and these included..."It's like the start of a Hitchcock film, a great build up" and "a timeless feel!"

Alec Linstead
One of my favourite poets took his turn next with 3 little gems. Patrick McManus' creations are brief and sit elegantly on the page like a Greek column. "Tapestry" was my favourite and has already been sent to artist Robert Good for the JawSpring exhibition in March. Patrick Mcmanus has a wicked glint in his poetry and performance, his chin juts out proudly and he likes to stir up proceedings with his literary nuggets.

Keith Drake
Alec Linstead's honeyed voice trapped me in its sweet amber before I even had a chance to digest the meaning of his poem 'Harvesting'. His inspiration was a real moment, a physical place, in fact the privet hedge outside No.7 Latimer Road. The micro beauty of the bee brought a universal appreciation from the poets gathered in the circle.

Humphrey Aylwin Selfe
Keith Drake always sits furthest from the eye of the poetic storm at these meetings. He often gives the impression he is about to slip out of the door and into the dingy suburban night. The light outside was indeed a dirty Chartreuse in comparison to the bright whiteness under the halogen strips. Drake shifts from foot to foot, with one collar up and one down. His poem "Christmas Cards" is about the passage of time measured by friend's yuletide treasures. He received the first big laughs of the night.

Christine Sherlock
With his paper within an inch of his nose, Humphrey Aylwin Selfe read "Firelight" which warmed the others gathered around without ever quite catching ablaze. Robin Vaughan-Williams has rapidly become one of my favourites of the local scene too, not only is this a man who experiments in mixing his genre with Jazz but is obviously keen to collaborate with artists too. We are in the early stages of hatching a plot to combine Poetry, Art and Film. Vaughan-Williams with his dark mop of hair and an intensity of delivery cast his "He stops but his shadow carries on" over us. It was hotly debated, critiqued and universally admired.

John Grant
Rosanne Gomez's "Bird Brain" was a perfect counterpoint to Vaughan-Williams dark themes. Just like her smile, Gomez's poem was playful and alluring. Christine Sherlock followed with the tentative "In Wendy's Garden", but as Keith Drake said, "This is a poem that soothes" and he was right.

John Grant was our Oak, stable and calm. His demeanour was gentlemanly and he had a clarity of speech that projected his ideas effortlessly. His poem 'Bed' was a rib tickler amongst the circle of 15 poets and his line "release the solid ridges of your frown" epitomised this poem's ability to tackle death with an easing touch.

Gerald Hildreth
Jo Silver's poem was an unexpected surprise from a charming lady who seem to be living under a cloud until she released her poem into the room. Her 'Trans Recipe Delicacy' was especially written for the JawSpring exhibition and had a delightful bounce as its food inspired flavours filled our creative palates. As Patrick McManus commented, it was "a juicy poem".

Finally George MacGillivray read out 'From My Window', which was a particular hit with the Wimbledon and Merton Poetry leader Russell Thompson who loved the fact that so much time passed on the page. This is typical of many of the poems tonight. Even though the poems only take 2 or 3 minutes to read, your mind is transported through different terrains, across time zones and dumped back in Raynes Park, your imagination throbbing with the cerebral equivalent of blistered feet.

Experience and meet all these poets at the JawSpring exhibition Private View, 6-8pm, Friday 21st March 2014, The Village Hall Trust Gallery, 26 Lingfield Road, Wimbledon, SW19 4QD.


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