Hey everyone It’s fair to say that May Day Monday is never the biggest attendance of the year at Words and Music. I have to say however that the 16 of us who did attend at a time which traditionally involves trips to the coast and traffic problems enjoyed a highly entertaining evening which contained promising debuts and welcome returns not to mention a surprising last minute choice as featured musician.
As is now traditional I kicked off the night by reading a poem to welcome the gathering to the family table which is and ever shall be the wee back room at Sammy’s.
With this month’s event being held on the day which celebrates international socialism I decided to start with a poem for peace hope and a vision of a world without nuclear weapons titled Tights Before Trident.
This poem was inspired by a discussion at a post National Collective social where the force of nature that is Margaret McLaren McCabe and I were talking about independence as one does at National Collective events and I said that the price of tights was more important to the economic well being of a future independent Scotland than wasting money on lethal killing machines which no sane leader would ever use.
Once I had started the night with my poem from the legally blonde school of economic theory it was time to welcome the first of the programmed readers. This month that honour fell to Pamela Duncan who read us a play on the theme of change. This was not only entertaining it was also thought provoking in what will be regardless of the referendum result a year of change for Scotland.
Following Pamela to the stage was that genial giant Paddy Hannrahan. Now as regular readers will know Paddy is an excellent storyteller especially when regaling us with tales of South Africa but he does tend to go on a bit and this month was no exception to his usual rule. I do have to say however, I did enjoy his tale on ancestors and how the rainbow nation the late South African president Nelson Mandela had hoped to build is still a long way from coming to fruition. A reminder to us perhaps that when it comes to nation building, patience will be a much needed and necessary virtue.
After Paddy it was the turn of Susan Milligan to take the stage and in a set of three poems she started with her weakest and ended with her strongest. I have to say I’ve never really liked it when she tries to do accents as she did in her opening poem which was a tribute to American singer Curtis Stigers as shall we say I do not believe it’s in her more obvious range of gifts. Undaunted however she followed this up with a poem on going to the Rocky Horror Show before finishing with by far her strongest poem of the evening Sweet Sensation. This poem was in my opinion not only Susan’s best poem of the set it is one of her best ever. Right from the start it evokes memories of growing up in the 1970’s and the atmosphere created was so tangible you could almost taste the sweets as you walked down memory lane into the sweet shop.
Next up was a new face to Words and Music Paula Khan. Paula was she said a Sammy’s virgin though you would never have guessed had she not said.
In her debut set Paula performed two poems A Walk In Braehead and the outstanding To Girls Who Long For Dead Poets.
Both poems were sharp, incisive and a liberal sprinkling of wit in all the right places. This is a poet of whom I hope both I and Sammy’s will be seeing a lot more.
The same can also be said of our next reader and fellow debutant Shaun Moore. Sean performed two outstanding pieces to mark his arrival on the Words and Music stage A Slice of Life and a poetic story on the horrors of the Clutha tragedy and the triumph of the Glasgow spirit even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Lesley McKay was another poet who focused on the positive message of hope over fear though her poetry with the exception of Rupert Wins An Award focused on her African experiences and TIA This Is Africa, and Be The Change, showed Paddy Hannrahan the way to tell the story of this continent and give it a sense of place without all the rabbiting on.
Next up for our entertainment was the ever ebullient John McGlade whose tales of monologue for Radio Scotland and The Last Gardener were both funny and thought provoking with an edge only John can provide.
As John sat down it was the turn of a relative newcomer Alistair McIver to step up and tackle the Better Together campaign slogan The Best Of Both Worlds by giving it his own unique treatment and subsequently tearing it apart with a powerful and passionate performance of a poem which hit the mark with deadly accuracy.
After Alastair’s rallying call to think of the future it was Audrey Marshall who returned us to the present as she gave us a reality check, and in the finest Scottish tradition destroyed all hope of optimism by declaring the she was just a miserable sod. I hate to tell her, but I will even at the risk of her considerable wrath but I disagree with her on that. I just believe that when it comes to her view on the world she simply tells it as she sees it. Her first poem this month was Pocket Book a moving story of the events of World War 1 without any of the sickly stench of manufactured sweetness the British political establishment are trying to create. This was followed by Clouds a brilliantly moving poem with lots of fantastic and very powerful imagery and she concluded her with 4.45 a poem for her beloved Hibernian. Yes Audrey like me is a football girl, there is however one important difference between us, I support the successful team in Green and White.
Talking about things which don’t have a lot going for them Jim Ewing read a poem on the scare stories of better together during the independence referendum campaign. The poem which is subtlety entitled 10 Good Reasons to vote No. Funny but it ran out on reason after number 7 and showed that Better Together are running out of ideas long before the end of the campaign. It seems to me that to paraphrase a well known TV programme I don’t watch and never will they believe the only way is fear. Jim however doesn’t believe that, he believes as I do that the only way is faith and as if to prove the point he gave a plug to the faith and unbelief event he runs on the last Saturday of the month.
Talking of things are last, it was time for the last poet before the bar break. This month it was Linda Grant who took us there with a set of three poems Living With Myself, Tears Of Joy, and One Of Those Days after which we all headed down the stairs for a much deserved refreshment.
Having assumed without confirming that Dennis Oliver would have been our featured musician as we had spoken about it in April I realised that since Dennis hadn’t turned up for which I take full responsibility that this could leave us short of a featured musician especially since our regular stand in for such emergencies Andy Fleming had sent me a text to say he would be unable to take his usual place at the table. However all was not lost as I had a Plan B and this involved giving someone a wee surprise they hadn’t bargained for.
The someone in question was Susan Milligan and when I summoned her by saying can I have a word with you now. Susan being a sensitive wee soul asked what I have done wrong now? I told her to relax as it wasn’t what she had done wrong it was what she could do to add to the enjoyment of the evening and if she was up for the featured musician slot then the tenner was hers for the taking.
After thinking it over for a moment I am glad to say she accepted the challenge and without giving too much away just let’s say it won’t be the last time she’s featured musician at the club.
Having completed our negotiations Susan returned to her seat with a secret smile which I know something you don’t know but your going to find out later. That however was for later now it was time to commence the second half of the evening with our featured writer.
This month the spotlight shone on the man once described by the brilliant young poet Kevin P Gilday as the Cumnock Curmudgeon Jim Monaghan. This is a poet I always enjoy listening to, you see Jim is not just a poet he’s an award winning poet having won the Festival of Politics slam at the Scottish Parliament last year and also the rhyming optional slam Champions League slam which was organised by the aforementioned Mr Gilday.
Jim started his set with a poem on younger people in which he reflected back to his own youth with a well crafted piece which showed humour warmth and empathy. Still in reflective mood his next poem was the heartwarming What I Got For My Birthday’s in which he takes on a tour of his life from early childhood till now and I have to say I find it both an interesting and enjoyable journey.
It has to be said that those of who are lucky enough to call Jim a friend know that he has a very definite set of political views and one thing he cannot buy into is the wha’s like us school of Scottishness and identity politics are not something he feels comfortable with. Indeed in his poem Jock Tamson Girns he reminds us that we really are just the same as any other nation and that in his opinion and I have to say mine is something we should be celebrating.
In his next poem Political Correctness Gone Mad Jim takes aim at those who say that hard won rights are no more than political correctness. In this poem he reminds us that these rights were not given by a benevolent government but had the result of campaigns some of which went on for many years and the gains made should not be lightly dismissed just because some in the press have a very different agenda to that of social progress based on cultural diversity. Now maybe I might be wee biased here but I believe in there are echoes of the speech made during the second world war by Pastor Martin Neimoller first they came for the communists. This poem was I think a fitting reminder of what may day is about and why it is so important to celebrate it.
The next poem the Secret Millionaire offered Jim’s take on the TV programme of that name he then read a found poem Lies About Iraq, before moving on to TV Heaven, to another found poem When I’m 54, then Book Of Proverbs, another trade union poem Pie In The Sky, which I have to say is an exceedingly good poem before finishing a brilliant set with his calling card and my personal favourite of his United Colours Of Cumnock. This set was in my opinion one of breathtaking quality and shows why Jim Monaghan is a poetic tour de force whose work is educational, empowering, and entertaining in equal measure.
Talking of entertaining Words and Music has had a habit over the years producing the occasional surprise and this time the surprise was that I had a trick up my sleeve when I introduced Susan Milligan as the featured musician.
As I said earlier I thought I had booked Dennis Oliver but I should have confirmed so I’ll arrange with Dennis for sometime later in the year as I always look forward to hearing him play and love his laid back style. However that’s for another night and I have to say Susan was an excellent stand in especially when you consider she took it on at very short notice
Susan was full value for her very well earned tenner and performed eight songs in her 20 minute slot and demonstrating her versatility with a wide range of choices. These included the Kate Bush classic The Man With The Child In His Eyes, and songs from the 50’s and 60’s such as Sailor, Where The Boys Are, Till I There Was You and Yesterday.
This was I am sure just a sample of her work of I am I bound to hear more over the months and years to come. In fact I would say this even more than her writing is where her real talent lies.
After Susan it was time for the penultimate reader of the evening. Michael McLaughlan is a less frequent than I would like him to be, however when does make it along he makes an impact and he does so with the quality of his poetry and This Beauty, and Stupid Fuckin Words demonstrated not only the quality of his work but also the depth of his range. This man is a serious poet who deserves to be recognised as such and I for one always enjoy listening to him read.
By now we had reached the end of the night and it was my duty to bring the evening to a close. I performed a set of five poems. I started by reminding those present not only what we were fighting for by celebrating May Day but also by what we were standing against by reading Self Service Cafe which was my rant against the Westminster government benefit cuts.
Next up was something completely different and The Promise Of Summer has long been one of my favourite poems as warns mothers not to be too judgemental on their daughters or their friends but instead to rewind the camera of their minds to a time when they were the age the girls are now and enjoyed the good times summer brought them.
Bearing in mind my impending trip to Edinburgh I read a poem on the national question which I know is a favourite of my Edinburgh based friend and fellow poet Matt MacDonald. The Quilt not only talks about why I support independence but the circumstances which have brought this opportunity about and my hope that should we in the yes campaign win the vote as I believe we will that it will lead to an improvement in relations between a new more confident Scotland and the remaining nations of the UK as we finally what I have always seen the unionist Blame The English cringe.
Next up I read The Champagne Socialist which I think is I timely reminder to those in political parties who claim to be socialists but are more interested in serving themselves the luxury lifestyle they crave than the serving the voters who elected them to represent them. I wonder if this little rant will ring any bells for the likes of Sarwar, Brown, or others who should know better but don’t.
I followed this up with my final poem. Mother Hen. This one tells the emotional story of me not being able to be a mum but still being treated like an emergency one by some of my younger female friends particularly in the LGBT and traditional music communities and it was only fitting that it was this poem which brought the curtain down on another excellent night of words music mayhem and comradeship in the wee back room. A night where we proved that freedom, faith, and football girls were part of a great night out and see if anyone tries to tell different it’s political correctness gone mad I tell you it’s political correctness gone mad.
Love And Best Wishes