Hey everyone. As we reach that time when all roads lead to Lebowskis it is time to look back on the events of last month. Being the last month gig before the fringe I had hoped for a bigger attendance than the 9 who turned up but due to circumstances beyond the call of nature we were beset by a range of call offs which impacted on the numbers available to a far greater extent than would normally have been the case.
I also have to take in to account the fact that I made the controversial decision to select Susan Milligan as featured musician due to the fact that she would be celebrating her 50th birthday the following week. This was a difficult decision as Susan can be a bit hit or miss on normal club nights when she reads her latest writing and the fact she can be a bit outspoken about her opinion of herself and others often with no justification means that selecting her as a featured act could also have been a factor in the lower than average attendance. That said however I have always stressed that quality matters far more than quantity at Words and Music nights and believe me this was a quality night in the finest traditions of the club.
As is now always the case I got night under way with one my own efforts. In this case my choice was Strawberries In Glasgow Green On A Good Friday Afternoon. This was my tribute to the former Glasgow and Scottish Makar the late Edwin Morgan who died in August 2010. It’s hard to believe this towering figure of 20th and early 21st century Scottish poetry is no longer with us. However, and you have to trust me on this anyone who can inspire me to write a poem where three poems of his are used for the title of one of my poems has certainly left his mark on the world of Scottish poetry.
Steve Allen was next to the stage and making a welcome return to the fold after a long and sustained period of ill health. It was good to see a good friend back at Words and Music and back on form with Bad Vibrations. This was a tale of the time when his daughter Georgia learned a very naughty word and couldn’t help but spread the word all round the nursery. This Steve assures us is a 100 percent true story and I for one believe him as it’s one of those perils of parenthood you just couldn’t make up.
Lesley MacKay was the unlucky one who had to follow Steve but she did in style with her piece on The Selkie was both entertaining and thought provoking in equal measure. I think it is fair to say that Lesley is the kind of who in her own understated way draws her audience and makes them want to listen to and enjoy her work and I certainly enjoyed this piece.
Next up was someone else who like Steve Allen was making a welcome return to Words And Music after a wee period of absence and that is the larger than life force of nature that is Monica Pitman. In her first poem Lock Up Your Colin’s Monica reveals her fondness for two men of that name namely our friend and fellow poet Colin Storrie and another much younger Colin who comes from Trinidad for whom Monica has the hots. Monica followed this up with And Shakespeare’s Laughing In The Wings in which she invokes the memory of her favourite bard, before finishing her set with a poem entitled Feet. I have to say it was good to see Monica back among us as she hasn’t enjoyed the best of health recently and the poetry scene has been much the quieter for it.In another change of style it was Pete Faulkner who came to the stage to read three of his poems. My Cathedral, Far Raven, and the excellent William McGonagall’s Dundee. This was a top quality set from a top quality poet and someone I always enjoy listening to.
As Pete went back to his seat Jim Ewing entertained the gathering with a short set of two poems Carp Diem and his Dusty Springfield poem which went down so well in this year’s competition. I must confess on hearing this poem without having the responsibility of judging it, I managed to get some of the references far more quickly and clearly than I did on the night of the competition.
After Jim Linda Grant led us to temptation but to the bar break by delivering two pieces. A Thing About My Neck And Past And Present. The later of the two pieces was written for her long standing or should that be long suffering friend Aileen MacLeod who has been a friend of Linda since they started secondary school together in the early 1970’s. This poem is one of Linda’s best illustrating as it does the true value of enduring friendship which I believe is something to be both celebrated and cherished.
After the break it was time for our featured writer and on this occasion that job fell to Audrey Marshall to entertain us whilst also making us think. Audrey is always a good bet to manage this cultural multi-tasking as her poetry draws you in to her world and to understand that the primary purpose of poetry is change hearts, minds, and attitudes
Audrey started her set with Afraid which was written for her gran Jessie who has Altzheimers and expresses the fears of a loving granddaughter who is concerned about the vulnerability that this condition brings to the lives of not to those who have it but also to the families who love them.
Audrey followed this up with Re-Visited another poem on a similar theme before moving to Ode To The Page which sums up the power the naked page has on those who wish to pen our thoughts as poets are want to do. I really liked this poem as it showed the gentle humour which for Audrey is famous. This was followed by Death Of A Cat Burglar, Tension, Siren, Solitude, Before Audrey started the tail end of her set with The Language Of Women. This was a particularly enjoyable poem packed as it was with powerful intelligent imagery and a thoughtful message on the way woman communicate.
In her penultimate poem Interview Wait, Audrey describes the nerves we all have when we are placed in the vulnerable position of attempting to sell ourselves to an individual or a panel as we try to gain a new position of employment. This poem really resonated with me as I remembered the wait for the postman to let me know if I had even got to the interview as I hunted for a job during the summer and autumn of 2002 during a prolonged period of unemployment and I remember the nervous wait in the waiting room before going in to the interview.
In her poem When I Am My Mother which should be subtitled. A Warning To Lisa, Audrey shows us a glimpse of the kind of older woman she would like to become. I would like to take the rise at this older version of Audrey but I can’t because the older Audrey and the older Gayle have far too many similarities. This homage to The Jenny Joseph poem When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple was an excellent way to finish a quality set and believe me Audrey thoroughly deserved every penny of the tenner she earned as her poets wage.
Having had an excellent featured writer it was time for our featured musician As I said earlier, I had given this slot to Susan Milligan as part of her birthday celebrations.
At the start of her set this looked like an inspired decision by the end of it however it had been downgraded to just being a good choice. This however was still better than some people expected, though being the tough task mistress I am I have to say I am not one of them. Well let’s put it this way you don’t get a featured slot if I don’t think your up to it.
The problem with what was a quality set, was that Susan went on a wee too bit too long about to 12 minutes too long to be exact. Susan started her set which was a mixture of songs from the 50’s, 60′, 70’s, and possibly one from the 80’s with the Peggy Lee classic Fever, before moving on to Is That All There Is? In which her mock American accent did her no favours whatsoever. Diamond’s Are A Girl’s A Best Friend, in which she made the same mistake. Susan then moved on to Moon River which was in my opinion one her best of the night, Oh Lord Would Buy Me A Mercedes Benz, Pearl’s A Singer and My Funny Valentine.
These songs made up the strongest part of her set and that is where it should have ended. Undaunted however Susan carried on without even asking for a time check. This is just bad performance etiquette for which there is no excuse, but unaware that people were switching off she continued with Those Were The Days, Be With You, As Tears Go By, Amorous, before finishing with Love Child which was beyond doubt easily her worst song of the night in which she was both out of tune and struggled to hit the notes. Finally it was over, 12 songs in a period of over half an hour. It was almost as if Susan had brought 12 songs and come hell or high water she was going to sing all of them no matter what. This to me to use a phrase often associated with football snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Don’t get me wrong Susan is a good singer. but she does have timing and self awareness issues. To be perfectly honest whilst she needs support on her self awareness there is no excuse for such blatant stage hogging. I have no doubt that my predecessor Hughie known to some of us as faither would have accused her of being a spotlight junkie and that kind of I’ve started so I’ll finish attitude to me spoiled what could have been and should have been an excellent set. I don’t accept and never will accept the idea that she lost track of time. This would have been acceptable if she had only been attending the event for a few months but she should know better having been a regular attender for the last four years.
Susan’s set completed it was up to me to conclude the evening which I did with a set of four poems. I started with Ordinary Blonde before acknowledging the start of the football season and moving on to The Tartan Ronaldo. I then showed my internationalist credentials by performing anti-racist poem View From The Living Room Window before finishing my set with White Tights And Mini Skirts a poem which always goes down well whenever I perform it. So another Words And Music came to end and despite a lower attendance than I would have hoped for this was a night of quality performances it was a night where there was a relaxed atmosphere and a night enjoyed by all those in attendance and when I am my mother I will laugh about bad vibrations and remember the days I used to wear white tights and mini skirts.
Love And Best Wishes