Hey everyone As we get ready for what I’m sure will be another magical First Monday in the wee back room it is time to reflect on the second of our May visits to Sammy’s. You see as the regulars amongst will know, May it is a slightly different month for Words And Music. I say this as not only do we have our normal club night on the first Monday we also have an extra meeting usually on the third Monday or possibly the fourth if it’s a five Monday month. This is to avoid any clash with Last Monday At Rio as this event is run by Robin Cairns who is a valued member of the Words And Family.
The reason for this extra meeting is to decide who will be our club champion and the winner not only of the title Words And Music Open Champion and the £40 first prize but also of the coveted Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy. Believe me this is a prize worth winning and the two joint runners up prizes of £20 are also good value for three minutes work.
Before proceeding any further with this post I do however have one thing I wish to clear up. This competition is not, has never been, and will never be a slam. This needs to be said and explained in a proper way so that people understand the key difference between them.
The main differences are that in a slam at least some of the poets or maybe even all of them depending on the format will get the chance to perform more than one poem. At Sammy’s however it’s one poem which has to be no longer than three minutes and your off. Does this make it harder to win than a slam? Well in some ways I think it does and in some ways it doesn’t. It’s like comparing boxing to gymnastics they both require those taking part to have the talents they need but those talents are completely different.
Anyway explanation over, it was time to get this year’s competition under way. As is often the case on this occasion I handed the to comparing duties over to Pamela as I along with long time friend of Words And Music and next month’s featured musician Jim King took our seats at the judges table. As always this would be a tough competition to judge but I certainly relished the challenge and as Pamela drew the first number from the hat it was Chris Young who got the 2015 Words And Music Open Poetry Championship under way.
In his poem entitled The Recipe. Chris took a complex look at family dynamics and his relationship with his grandmother and how this woman who was so loving to him had not been quite so warm towards his mother. It was in this atmosphere that Chris learnt the value of keeping not so much secrets but secretive about things you don’t want others to know. One line that jumped out at me such was its emotional power was she cared for the weak yet despised signs of weakness in others. Such contrast and complexity I think lies within us all. A serious poem with touches of humour in the appropriate places, this was a clever poem which was very well crafted with good use of language, rhyme, imagery, and illiteration. This signalled not only had the competition started but the bar had been set and set high. It was as they say game on and it was time for the other contenders to show what they had in the locker.
Next up to the stage was a newcomer not only to the competition but also to Sammy’s and the Words And Music family. By making her debut on competition night Carla Woodburn was taking the same road I had travelled 22 years previously so if anyone knows how she felt it was definitely me. Like me all those years ago Carla’s first poem was a comic one about a woman who kept on giving birth to spiders. This was a punchy poem with lots of cracking rhymes which was almost like a rap approach from a poet who I think we’ll hear a lot more of and who will be a very welcome addition to the Words And Music Family.
Carla was followed to the stage by our 2013 champion Stephen Watt. Stephen is I have to say one of my favourite poets as there is a depth to his work. As he claimed the stage to perform his poem Never Trust A Man Who Doesn’t Dance To Ska it seemed that he had suffered the curse of every poet the dreaded memory blank. Believe me there isn’t a single poet on earth who hasn’t suffered it at some stage and it always seems much longer than it is. Anyway being the consummate performer that he is start Stephen started afresh and gave an accomplished performance of a good quality piece which was snappy fast paced with clever rhymes and intelligent lyrics which told a story from start to finish in a manner which was rounded and completed.
Next up was Colin Strathdee a first competition who was making only his second appearance at Words And Music. Colin’s poem entitled Never Give Up was almost like a multi reference list. Like Stephen his rhymes were fast paced and clever and both judges liked his intelligent questioning approach.
Susan Milligan followed Colin and now in her fourth year at Words and Music gave her best performance at any competition to date. Though she finished last by a wee bit of a distance this I believe, had far more to do with the calibre of competition she was up against rather than her own performance. In her poem From Above Susan wrote from the point of view of a seagull on its flight over Glasgow. I liked the idea she had gone slightly left field as it showed originality of thought though the rhyme scheme was slightly weaker than some of her more recent work. There were however some good use of comic images. Indeed one could say it had a sense of revenge about it even if that revenge was tempered by apathy.
Susan was followed to the stage by Jim Ewing. This is a man who in many ways has been one of her greatest champions and his faith and unbelief group certainly seems to have given her scope to develop as both a writer and performer. In his poem ÷÷ Definitely Jim told the story the of one of earliest musical influences the 1960’s singing sensation Dusty Springfield. This was a serious sombre poem touched as it had to be with darkness due to the difficulties she faced. I don’t know why but I seemed to pick up faith based references which Jim later assured me were if they were at all entirely unintentional. It was also said and totally justifiably that there were great references to lace the subject’s identity whilst ‘keeping it secret’. It also conveyed of a personal feeling of longing of across a lifespan which kind of completes a journey and takes it from beginning to end.
Pete Faulkner was next up to the stage and his poem The Back Court told a brief but well structured story of a romance stopped by the horror of war in a powerful and emotional way. It was also more traditional than is usually the case for Pete but this charming if tragic tale really worked well for him.
If Pete went down the traditional route our next competitor Mark McGhee most certainly didn’t. In a sharp fast paced polemic rap against the influence of the media in politics Mark’s entry Tidal Wave more than lived up to its title as engulfed those listening in a tidal wave of emotion. Indeed my fellow judge who is a renowned lyricist and a highly skill songwriter said he would have loved to have to come up with the line ’empire biscuits crumble’ and when you get a compliment like that from Jim King believe me your doing something right.
Audrey Marshall followed Mark and her poem The Scheme really grabbed me and took me to some very uncomfortable places. This was a hard hitting but truthful portrayal of West of Scotland life and the use of the bastard from someone never usually swears gave the poem extra authenticy and emotional impact. This was raw emotion painting an evocative picture of West of Scotland life indeed my fellow said it was like an essay in despair.
Now it was time for the penultimate contestant and in Shaun Moore we had a man at the top of his game. Shaun’s choice of poem Throwaway Remarks was a biting, emotional, social commentary on a damaged relationship and a very real reflection on its impact. Though this was expressed in a quiet way through excellent illiteration it did not detract in any way from the value of the poem in fact if anything it added to it.
Finally we had reached the last performer of the night and the last contestant of the 2015 Words And Championship and that contestant was another recent addition to the Words And Music Family Scott Smith. In his poem Attributes Scott made a powerful plea for more but as befits a deeply Calvinist country it was delivered with a measured of guilt. I am sure however even the most cheerless of Calvinists would be pleased that it well written, well performed, and had good rhyming schemes and with that it was up to the judges to decide the outcome of the contest and the winner of the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy.
As Jim and I chatted we knew that this was not going to be easy. The standard of the entries was as high as the occasion demands and there was much discussion before a decision was reached. To use a phrase usually reserved for elections Sammy’s is always a marginal constituency and you have to be at your best on the hustings to stand any chance of winning. This year had indeed been a close call and after counting and recounting the figures it was time to deliver the verdict to the candidates.
After Jim and I gave everyone feedback on their efforts, I called Mark McGhee and Shaun Moore to the stage to receive to their joint runners up prizes of £20 and congratulated both guys on their efforts. Now however, it was time to announce our winner. This is a man who has shown both his loyalty to Words and Music
and to our competition over a number of years. First entering in 2007 when he was, as he has been on so many occasions since one of our joint runners up. This is a man who takes his poetry seriously and deserved both the £40 and the Hughie Healy Memorial and as returning officer for Words and Music I declared Chris Young to be duly elected our champion and to serve for the said constituency for a fixed term of one year.
On handing Chris the trophy I paused for a moment and reflected that Hughie would have been proud to have such a man representing us as our champion and proud that his winning recipe was an original creation with all the right ingredients for success.
Love And Best Wishes