From Geographic Journeys To Political Campaigns We Visited Some Very Personal Places

Hey everyone It doesn’t seem like a month ago since the June edition of Words and Music but it is. In fact if truth be told, it is actually over a month. However, there is plenty of truth in the old saying that time passes quickly when your having fun and believe me I’ve been having plenty in recent weeks.

Anyway, since the July session will be a week later than usual due to the refurbishment of the venue by its new owners, I think I have been given some extra   time to review what was one of the most chilled out relaxing nights HQ has seen for a long time when I should be basking in the reflective glory of another excellent evening of quality entertainment.

With a smaller attendance than usual, this is often the way of things after the competition it was always going be slightly less formal than can sometimes be the case but believe the calibre of performers who were in attendance more than made up for any absentees from our number and it was great to welcome back both A C Clarke and Robin Cairns who were making a welcome return after commitments and illness had curtailed their recent appearances.

Anyway as is now tradition I got the night started with a couple of my poems of contrasting styles  which I hope set the tone for the evening. I  started with one of my serious humanitarian poems Child Of Sorrow. This type of poem which is so often the preserve  of us liberal, lefty, types  set the regulars a  challenge of both thinking and drinking which they so often have to do at Sammy’s. I have to say though this is one type of multi-tasking that both poets and musicians can usually manage with a fair degree of ease.

My second poem Every Saturday Night was the first poem I ever read at the old place and it was one of those poems I knew would go down with the audience and you know what it still does.

Having started proceedings in my customery manner it was now time to hand over to the billed readers and first up to entertain the company was John Moody a man who is rapidly becoming a regular at Words And Music This month John read two pieces on the theme of time entitled We and The Silent Weaver  In the second of his pieces John  used the phrase weaving time  about a man named Angus McPhee who came from the war and was never the same  again and ended up weaving baskets in a sheltered workshop. This was a very moving piece from a very talented writer who is becomming a respected performer with a voice worth listening to.

Next up was musician Frank Somers.  Frank, who for some reason always likes to go on early gave us two songs Chase The Dragon and Light My Fire both of which he has performed before. I know Frank has confidence issues but to me he needs to learn a few more songs before he can be considered for the featured slot  because with a voice like his he is seriously worth considering.

After Frank It was a pleasure to welcome A C Clarke back to the wee back room  on this occasion only read one poem which she described as a personal manifesto entitled From Now On this a power packed piece from a writer who has been badly missed in the last few months as she always adds a touch of quality to any performance she attends.

As Anne went back to her seat it was another strong female voice who took her place  Lesley MacKay read two poems on this occasion Dancing At La Gar and I Know Now and as usual with Lesley both were intelligent,  thought provoking, emotional, and well read.

Lesley was followed to the stage by Colin Strathdee. Colin who is a highly talented young voice is a relative newcomer to Words And Music but I have been impressed with both his talent and the honesty in his work. This time he read a poem titled Outside Looking In. This poem which is written from a very personal perspective Colin let’s his audience know what it feels like to be living with autism in a world which seem to be aware of the barriers people with this condition face within mainstream society.

Next up to the stage was the man I call the maestro and it was great to see Robin Cairns at Sammy’s for the first time this year.  This was due to that lethal combination of commitment and illness but Robin’s poetic mood was thought provoking rather than funny and he said as much in his introduction when he said neither of his poems would have us splitting our sides with laughter. That said however  The Cat Vandal and Tinteretos Early Black showed another side to a man who is perhaps more known for his comedy but whose more serious work shows the depth of a quality wordsmith.

Following Robin is never an easy task but in Jim Ewing we had just the man for the job. In his poem He allows it, Jim illustrates the power of both faith in God and the forgiveness of God to those who seek him and wish to descerne his word.

After Jim the next reader up was Linda Grant. Linda read a short set of three poems My Glasgow, Piggy Bank, Darling Daughter. This was one of Linda’s best sets at Words And Music and contained two of my personal favourites of hers. It was a set laced with gentle humour which a personal perspective on the city she is proud of and the family she loves.

Next up was Susan Milligan who was to lead us not in to temptation but deliver us to the bar break. In an interesting set which was both  informative and entertaining Susan performed two poems before finishing with her now traditional song. This time she opened her set with a poem entitled Cave, this painted a picture of what she imagined life to be like in the primitive world and I really liked some of  the imagery in the piece From that interesting start,  she then moved on to perform From Above. This was the poem she read at the competition and looks at the world from the point of view of a seagull. This was to use one of Susan’s favourite words quirky and demonstrated a sense of humour which is in great contrast  to some of her earlier work which is shall I say a bit on the darker side and contains a lot of inappropriate personal stuff  we don’t really need to know.

After the break, it was as it  ever shall be the turn of the featured writer to entertain the gathering and in what is now last month this honour fell to a long time friend of both myself and Words and Music Eveline Pye. Before starting her set , Eveline made reference to the publication of her  new poetry pamphlet The Smoke That Thunders  which contains many poems from the time when Eveline lived in Africa,  It was  on this theme that Eveline’s featured slot was based,taking us on geographical journey to explore the life and culture Zambia which leaving the comfort of our seats.

Eveline started her set with a poem titled Mosi Ay Tuna  which is the African translation  of the smoke that thunders and is in my opinion a far more eloquent and captivating description of this magnificent sight which we more commonly know the Victoria Falls. Now this may come as shock to some of my regulars but I have also written by that name which one day I may post on this site but it is and I have to  say this nowhere near in the same league  as the one which Eveline opened her set. You see, mine was written after seeing a photograph where Eveline’s was written from actually being there and seeing it first hand.

During her years in Zambia Eveline worked in the copper mines which is one of the country’s most important industries and learned much about the people and their culture, and traditions.  However like anyone arriving in a new country she was unsure of what to expect and this comes across in her poems Culture  Shock  and Welcome where expresses her gratitude to a kind but cautious people.  In her next poems Watching TV and Respect Eveline reveals the influence of the president at that time a  man by the name of Doctor Kenneth Kaunda and informed her audience that once every four years you got the chance to vote for the president.  Now i don’t know why,but this is the kind of country to which i would love to sends some of our less enlightened unionists, and preferably on a one way ticket. You know the ones i mean, the ones who compare our First Minister  Nicola Sturgeon,  and her predecessor Alex Salmond to dictators. Yes them, I wonder how long they would  have survived in  a country which actually was a what one rather nasty unionist when referring to Scotland after the recent SNP Landslide called our country a one party state.  My guess is that they and the rest of their kind wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. You see there is a difference between living in a real one party state and one in which due to the rampant stupidity of others there is only credible party to vote for.

Anyway, as I was saying, Zambian political culture is  very different from that of Scotland and apparently the people there are very found of using animals to describe either themselves or their opponents in this way. For example Eveline said that should someone be talking about their own leaders they would be likely to a bird such an eagle to illustrate  their beliefs, whilst opponents would be given less desirable animals such as rats or snakes to symbolise their views.

Talking of animals this brings on to the next poem in what was a brilliant set and was especially appreciated by myself as a former Geography and Politics Honours Graduate.  The poem Walking Whales was written on the on subject of Hippo’s cut straight through any sentimental images we in this country may have on the creature our reader describes as the most dangerous animal in  Africa informing us that it is not only a killer but causes all kinds of environmental damage which we in the  west may not be aware of.

Eveline’s next poem Conservation was also on theme of the environment and was i have  to say very educational as like so much in her set it raised issues from a perspective first hand knowledge I could not have gained elsewhere and certainly not in the UK media. Now in to the final part of her set Evelyn concluded her time in the spotlight with Mealy Meals which is a poem on hunger the likes of which i will never know before finishing with the brilliant Leaving Africa which told of her heartbreak on leaving both a country and a people she had grown to love for the sake of her younger son who had his mum stayed in Africa would she told us almost certainly have died. This was a power packed set filled  with both humanity and re d raw emotion and it was in my opinion a privilege to listen to and enjoy.

After our featured writer it was time for some music, and who better to provide it than our featured musician for the evening Jim King.  Jim, like Eveline, is a long standing friend of Words and Music with an association which stretches back 20 years. On this particular night Jim performed five songs all of which though familiar to me gained new admirers on a night when at least a couple of participants who are reasonably new to our event hadn’t heard his work before.   Jim started his set with the excellent It Take All Kinds, before moving on to what has become a Sammy’s  sing-a long classic in the last five years Little Posh Kids. Jim’s take on this 1960’s folk song Little Boxes was was given the Jim treatment in 2010 just after the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition and has now been updated to reflect the new political dynamic of a 100 per cent Tory Government at Westminster.

Jim followed this with the The Attitudes Of  Men and Been On The Job Too Long before completing a fantastic set with one of personal favourites of his in  The Gathering  Believe me i’ve heards a lot of Jim’s songs over the last 20 years and this one which takes a powerful look at the absurdities of Scapegoating is right up with Woodland Waltz, Blood Red  Roses Roots And Wings and a certain song about Kestrels as one of my best of selection. Like his opening number it has also become a bit of classic sing- a ;long song. for the Words  and Music faithful.

At the end of what were two ispirational featured sets it was the turn of Words And Music newcomer Russell Wilson to take the stage Russell read three poems when in reality he may have been better reading two and leaving the audience wanting more. That said though, it would have been a difficult decision as to what to leave out, as Cathartic In Partick, It Came In A  Dream, and Crazy Maggie were all  excellent poems. I do have to say I particularly enjoyed Crazy Maggie  as it tackled the subjects of stereotyping and prejudice so beloved by poets everywhere.  However though Russell has definitely gained new fans for his poetry and that includes me i thought three long poems near the end of the night didn’t really do him any favours and the sooner he realises that his work needs editing for the better it will be for all us but particularly for a man who has a gift but is at moment at least not making the best use of it.

As Russell finished his set It was time for me to bring the night to a close which I did by performing three  of my poems which like my wardrobe varied in content and style  I started with my political poem for the evening. Well I was always going to read one particularly given my party’s stunning success at the recent UK general election  where we won 56 of the 59 Scottish Seats available to  us. My poem of choice was The Campaign which was dedicated to the brilliant campaign team in Glasgow East where we helped Natalie McGarry unseat  the Labour Party’s  Margaret Curran  in one of the biggest shock results of the night.

Political poem over, my next poem was one of my own personal favourites of all the poems i’ve written. In The Promise Of Summer I take a reflective look at life rewinding my camera to my teens and making an appeal to those of us over  the age of 40 not to judge today’s girls too harshly and you know what, I think too many do though I must admit I try and for most of the time succeed in living up to the sentiments I express in this very personal poem.

My final poem for the night and indeed the month was  An Introduction To Transwomen For Beginners. This poem was inspired after conversations with my friend and fellow poets Sophia Walker and Sophia Blackwell though it does have to be said that Sophia Walker was the main protagonist in bringing it about. Well of the two poems named she is by far the more lippy and has a reputation  for shall we say speaking her mind.

My evidence for my last comment came in a conversation with Sophia a few years ago not too long after starting my transition. This conversation took place at a slam on a cold wet Friday evening in March and I said that some people in all walks of life mainly though not exclusively men were having difficulty in accepting my transition and my acquired female gender identity. On hearing this the bold Sophia said I needed to write these idiots an instruction manual. I then jokinngly suggested Do  you mean something like An Introduction To Transwomen For Beginners? This caused Sophia to say that’s a great idea for a poem and it could be a real winner and you know she was right it’s certainly proved popular any time read it and was the ideal way to end both my set and the night.  

You know as I reflected on the fact there were only 13 of us in attendence to enjoy what was a top quality night I thought there really are times when it’s not about numbers or the quantity of  those who performed and on a night when we went  on everything from geographic journeys to political campaigns we visited some very personal places.

  Love And Best Wishes

 Gayle X 

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