Hey everyone With the referendum over it was time to get back to something resembling normality and though politically Scotland may never be the same again it is perhaps refreshing to realise that in other areas in of our lives the old saying proves true the more things change the more they stay the same.
One place where this is definitely true is the wee back room of Sammy Dow’s where our monthly meeting of Words and Music will continue to bring a mixture of music and mayhem to the First Monday of every month for as long as there are poets and musicians willing to partake of this traditional recipe for merriment and madness.
Speaking personally, I think that in many ways this was the most important Words and Music since the night when Pamela Duncan officially retired in January 2013, as there are times when fresh starts need to be made for the good of us all. In this respect, it was good to get the family back round the table and get on with the business in hand. By taking this step we remember why gatherings are so important to us all and why we respect each other’s talents and we value the friendships we’ve made over time which in some cases amounts to more years that we care to remember.
As is now becoming tradition I kicked off the night with one of my own poems. On this occasion the poem of choice was Stolen Saturday which had been written the previous Saturday as my reaction to day when events had overtaken me and I had not been able to attend my usual first Saturday performance at Bards in the Park nor go to see my friend Robin Cairns in his one man show at the Britannia Panopticon due to my flatmate having a very severe episode of depression. The poem seemed to be very well received considering that it was perhaps not the easiest choice of topic to start a night with, so with duty done it was now time to get on with the billed programme.
First up from the floor was a woman of considerable talent who was making a very welcome to Words and Music Catherine Walker. It is no secret that I am a big fan of Catherine’s and anyone who was heard her perform will know why. On her comeback Catherine read three poems all of which were of outstanding quality and I must admit to particularly liking Muse as this is a notoriously difficult topic to write on and I have to say Catherine tackled it brilliantly.
After Catherine it was the turn of Susan Milligan who last month had given one of her best performances since she attending Words and Music just over three years ago. I have to day however that I was moderately disappointed as she selected three prose pieces all of which were or at least seemed to be too long and too dull. As I looked around the room I could tell from the body language of others in the company I wasn’t the only one who thought this.
The next up to read was former and indeed inaugural Makar of the Federation of Writers Of Scotland A C Clarke who like Catherine Walker was making a return to the wee back room I call home. Naturally I was delighted at this as I feel Anne always adds a significant degree of gravitas to whatever event she attends and this was no exception as she performed two poems Uncle Arthur and Viewpoint. The second of which remind us that whether we like it or not Glasgow did play a prominent role in the slave trade and the evidence of it is all around us. These were two excellent and thought provoking poems and made me glad to say that a poet of this calibre supports our event as often as time and commitments allow.
As Anne went back to her seat it was supposed to be Andy Fleming who would be next to entertain us but since Andy hadn’t decided what he was doing, Marc Sherland who was making his first appearance for a few months who was next on the list of readers was called to the stage and Andy you will not be surprised to know had no problem with this whatsoever.
I must admit I had no problem with this either it was as they say in sporting circles a simple tactical switch replacing good performer with another.
When Marc graced us with his considerable poetic presence he read three rather topical sonnets all written and delivered in his own unique style. Before The Count, Last Supper, and Soul Fire In the first of his sonnets Before The Count he captured a real sense of both the atmosphere and importance of this historic occasion, whilst in the last one Soul Fire he seemed to be giving Scotland a talking to and telling us to be quiet, move on, and accept the referendum result as final. This was an excellent set of high quality poetry and I for was glad that he gave his opinion on the referendum even if it does slightly differ from mine.
Eventually it was Andy’s turn to grace the stage and as usual he entertained us in a way only Andy can with a couple of songs and I particularly enjoyed Soldiers Of Islam which was in the finest traditions of Andy typically topical with a biting satirical edge.
Next up was another poet I always enjoy listening namely the one and only Jane Overton who regaled the company to Do The Right Thing in her opening poem before treating us to a Modern Twist On Sagas. Jane always make me smile and think at the same time, it’s amazing how good she is at multi-tasking.
Shaun Moore was next up to share his thoughts and showed what a powerful performer he is with two great pieces No Ma Thing and. Aff The Wind which was taken from Hamish Henderson and described perfectly the disappointment felt by the Yes supporters after the independence referendum. This piece was complimented by my good friend and no voter Marc Sherland. When I told Sean this news a few days after the performance he seemed slightly surprised I think this was due to them being in opposite camps on referendum day and the poems Marc had read however as a good friend of both guys I told Sean that Marc appreciated good writing no matter what your cultural tradition or political belief and recognised quality when he hears it.
It was Fred Fingers who followed Sean on the night and as usual the ever entertaining Fred didn’t disappoint. In his first poem The Undecided, Fred touched on the referendum and explained why he would never declare what way he had voted. Ever topical he followed that with the provocatively titled but highly entertaining See Glasgow And Die. Well a title like that will always be provocative when your reading it in Glasgow. Fred then finished his set with a song called Fiddlers Green. This is a song I have heard many times and have always found it to be totally enchanting. This time it was all the more enchanting as it led us not in to temptation but in to the bar break.
After the break it was time for the first of our featured slots as the featured writer was called to entertain the company. Now I don’t know about you but since this was both the first post referendum Sammy’s and also the annual Glasgoes poetic edition of the club I could think of no-one better to entertain us than the man I call the maestro Robin Cairns.
With a set comprised of almost entirely new material Robin more than lived up to his billing and demonstrated why I rate him so highly. Robin started his set with the topically titled Birdsong for Bastards before treating us to his referendum poem 200 Celebrities. As he introduced this poem he joked he that it was out of date but he was still going to read it anyway. By the end of it he said he wasn’t sure if he had written the last poem of this referendum or the first one of the next campaign. Well l have to say I know where my money’s going.
In his next poem The Ancient Vice Robin reminded us all about the value of work and he followed that up one entitled Gartcosh The wheel and this one certainly had me in a spin as I tried to keep up with his furious fast paced delivery and the speed at which he can punch out cracking lines peppered with some excellent imagery. Robin’s next target was New Age Religion which he dealt with his customary aplomb before finishing his set with The Girls In My Class in which he takes a retrospective look at his school days and some of the girls he knew back in the days of his youth.
After an excellent and enjoyable set Robin left the stage to be replaced by our featured musician Bob Leslie. Bob like Robin, is someone who can always be relied upon to deliver a quality set and like Robin he didn’t disappoint.
Bob started his set with a poem which reminds us to enjoy ourselves entitled Life’s Too Short To Wait For A Miracle. Now I don’t know about you lot and I’m pretty sure that my predecessor Hughie Healy would have something to say about my next comment but I’m sure there is a coded message in the title to tell Thistle fans that the only place they’ll win the Champions League is on play station.
Bob then sang two softer songs All Love Must Yield and The Church Of San Pedro before livening things with a song which I think can be dedicated to every Glasgow dad that I knew growing up especially mine. The song titled A Cowboy In The Heart Of Glasgow was a satirical number which examined the relationship between Glasgow men of a certain age and country and western music which I always thought was related to there obsession with the cowboys of the wild west. It was one of those songs with a sing a long chorus which had everyone joining in and maximising audience participation.
Like the consummate performer he is he then rounded off a top class twenty minutes by singing My Foolish Heart The World Came To Springburn before finishing with Sir Alexander Leslie in which he tells the story of some wandering relatives of his who apparently did rather well.
This was a fantastic set but for me the personal highlight was The World Came To Springburn in which he charts both memories of a childhood growing up in a busy industrial area of Glasgow and then it’s subsequent decline. This is a beautiful song with very poignant lyrics especially for someone like myself as my dad grew up in the depression years only five or ten minutes up the road from that area.
At the end of the featured slots I can safely that our audience which on this occasion amounted 15 had been thoroughly entertained and those who had to leave early missed out on some serious quality performances not least of which was the man who had to follow the featured acts to the stage Steve Allan. Steve’s story The Perfect Man about two toy lovers who found each other by chance had the crowd in a fit of the giggles. However if anyone can follow the main acts and keep the energy in the room as high as it needs to be it is the man who was our 2012 Words And Music Open Poetry Champion.
After Steve It was the turn of Jim Ewing to deliver a set which may have been short on length but wasn’t short on quality as Jim read two poems or perhaps I should say one poem and one haiku. The topics on this occasion were the Commonwealth Games which Jim addressed in his first poem Opening Ceremony and Post Referendum in which Jim gave his thoughts on Scotland’s verdict on it’s recent constitutional decision.
As Jim returned to his seat. I was delighted to welcome a newcomer to the Words And Music and Liam McCormick is I am sure a name we will hear a lot more of. In a promising debut Liam read three poems the best of which was his first effort The Minor Tragedy Of Reefer Madness. He then went on to read a poem entitled Daffodils which had been written by a friend of his, before finishing his set with Second Year Drinks.
After Liam it was left to me to bring the night to a close which I did by performing four poems in what must have been my first politics free set for a very long time. The poems I selected were Just The Job a poem in which I take a light hearted at the topic of work. Night Shift which was written from the viewpoint of a working woman. I’m Not Prejudiced But, which was written about the attitudes some people have to those they consider be others, and Last Dance where an aunt reflects that she’ll be watching X-Factor and playing her old CD’s whilst her niece goes clubbing. Yes it may be sad but it is also true the girls just wanna have fun generation have at least to some extent hung up our party dresses and passed the torch on to our daughters and nieces. Hey guess what I think I’ve just made a few political observations about my set so maybe it wasn’t as politics free as I thought.
So with my final thoughts I called the night to a close until we meet again on the First Monday of November but this was a night when we proved as poets and musicians do that life goes on and we follow this rule to have as good a time as possible as often as possible or in the words my predecessor would surely approve of lets make merry before the last dance because life’s too short to wait for a miracle.
Love And Best Wishes