Hey everyone, Monday night saw an extra visit to Sammy Dow’s for the annual Words and Music Open Poetry competition and the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy. The competition was first held in 1992 when the event was won by the man who I still regard as one of my most influential poetry mentors Jim Craig with his brilliant poem Impossible Dreams. Indeed it was Jim who first persuaded me to come along to Words and Music and Monday night reminded me that it was 20 years ago that very night that i made my Sammy’s debut. So if anyone can say they’ve came through the ranks at Sammy’s it is me schooled as I was by Jim his wife Cathy, the women who has been like a poetry mother to us all the incomparable Pamela Duncan and the man whom the trophy is named after the brilliant Hughie Healy.
It has to be said that Monday night probably attracted the smallest number of candidates to the competition in living memory as we had only 5 entrants for a prize which is well worth winning. This was partly due to an unfortunate and unavoidable clash of dates with the final of the Scotia Bar Short Story Competition. It is also however due to the fact that some of our regulars don’t like competitions and that some may have thought Sammy’s competition is similar in style to a poetry/ spoken word slam. Believe me when I say that nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed as our defending champion remarked at Sammy’s you are judged on the quality of the words.
Talking of judging this year’s judges know perhaps better than anyone what it takes to win this competition. In Pamela Duncan we had a prize poet and short story writer who has been the only person to have attended every contest in the history of the event, and in Andy Fleming we had the man who had finished runner up on at least four occasions and possibly more two of which in this opinion of this blogger he not only won but actually walked. So if any judges know what it takes to win Sammy it was Andy and Pamela. As i said we may have been short on numbers but weren’t short on quality and as I called Lesley McKay to the stage that race to become the 2013 Words and Music Champion had officially started.
Lesley’s poem was evocative and a wee bit daring with more than a suggestion of romantic flirtation, indeed Hughie had still been with us I am sure he would have said “aye hen that’s a lovely poem you wrote for me” Well he always was a loveable rogue and that’s why his name is remembered in our hearts and why we named a trophy in his honour. Next up was a man Hughie knew well our defending champion Steve Allen. Steve’s poem was written and performed using his favourite weapon of choice, humour and he performed it brilliantly. His opening two lines were in my opinion the best of the night. as he asked the question “who says that sanity belongs to humanity? who indeed I wonder
Whoever it was, one thing i do know is that it wasn’t our next competitor Chris Young Chris like Steve and myself often uses satire to made his poetic point. Not this time he didn’t, preferring to take a very serious look at Jimmy Saville sex scandal. Had he got this wrong it could have backfired spectacularly but Chris an articulate and intelligent man dealt with a difficult subject brilliantly writing the poem from two perspectives. Firstly he viewed the event as a child who most like of the UK sat glued as he watched through innocent eyes the dreams of other children and teenagers coming true and even wrote to the show unaware as we all were at that time of the monster with the heart of darkness of the man making the dreams come true. Secondly he looked the eyes of the man he has become with a mixture of anger and sadness at the vandalism of his earlier years, There were no comic one liners in the thought provoking and deeply disturbing poem. This is a serious poem written by a sensitive and serious man
Next to the stage was our penultimate performer Susan Milligan who gave a highly charged and emotional performance as delivered her poem River of Tears. This is a deeply personal poem from Susan about an ongoing family feud of which she wants no part and my view represents her best work to date. I would however agree with Pamela’s comments made during her summing up that though Susan has improved greatly in the time she has been attending Words and Music she still has much to learn and has a long way still to go. However this is about celebrating the journey she has made both as a performer and also as a poet.
As Susan made her way back to her seat it was time to welcome our final performer to the bring the curtain down on the Words and Music Championship for this year and Stephen Watt was just the man to do it. As regulars on the spoken word scene will be aware Stephen is a young man with a growing reputation and as those who witnessed his performance as our featured writer earlier this month will testify that reputation is thoroughly deserved. His poem My Father was a heartfelt look at the father – son relationship and how on the day of a family funeral he sensed perhaps for the first time his father’s vulnerability. As Stephen left the stage it was now in the hands of the judges as to who would be Words and Music Champion 2013 and winner of the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy.
After a short break I called to the judges and asked if they had reached a decision. They informed me that they had and after giving a brief summary they announced their decision. As it turned out our defending champion had not retained his title though it says a lot about the quality of his work that Steve Allen was announced as one of the joint runners up. the other joint runner up was Chris Young who had finished in that position last year when he shared it with Frank Mullen. However Chris is a former Stanza Slam Champion and his day or should that be night at Words and Music can’t at least in my opinion be too far away. So we move on to our winner and in Stephen Watt we have a young man who is not only a worthy winner but who i believe will be a fine ambassador for our club and its traditions of top class performance and quality poetry of the best and highest calibre. He is indeed a winner whose name Hughie would be proud to have on his trophy.
After the competition concluded we decided to make a night of it and turn it in a celebration of all that is good about Sammy’s and all it represents namely chaos madness and lunacy and in no particular order, Having got the competition out of the way its was time to revert to type and be our usual selves. This meant we got a performance of the judges , no surprises for guessing that it was actually Andy rather than Pamela who just relaxed and enjoyed the mayhem There were also turns from Audrey Marshall the only poet who was eligible to compete in the competition and choose not to. Susan who gave us an excellent rendition of my funny valentine and myself not to mention more mayhem from both Steve and Chris before I concluded the evening with one final set.
So though small in number we were not short on quality but perhaps what pleased me most of all was the comment made by Steve Allen to his successor Stephen Watt when he said ” it didn’t matter that there were 5 of us in the competition tonight even if there had been 30 your poem would still have won” You know sometimes you learn more about people in defeat than you ever do in victory and that was certainly true on this occasion. If I was looking for a headline to sum up the evening i would do it by paraphrasing a classic Oasis Album Watt’s The Story Evening Glory As Stephen Takes The Trophy .
Love And Best Wishes