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We Came To The Gathering Where Happiness Lives And Magical Memories Are Made We All Have Home Wins At The End Of The Night As We’ve Scored Personal Goals On The Stage. 

With November upon us we prepare for a Words And Music which will undoutably feature the theme of remembrance. It is therefore important to remember the events an October edition which was memorable in many ways for the 12 of us in attendance and perhaps even a wee bit controversial in places. That however to this poet in particular is no bad thing as it is the job of the bard to tell their truths as they see them. 

It was with very much on my mind that I started my set with two poems the events in Catalonia declaring my support for Catalan Independence. In my opening poem The Currency Of Hope written on the Friday night before the referendum I wish my Catalan comrades good luck and urge them to stand strong against threats or dirty tricks from Madrid. I fillowed this with a poem written the morning after the vote and Storm Of Sorrow was my imeadiate and angry reaction to the brutality Catalan voters faced at the hands of the Spainish state police as they exercised their democratic right. 

Having got the night off to what some would say was a controversial start I invited Angie Strachan to the stage to restore some sort of sanity to the proceedings but then I remembered it was Angie and decided to let her get on with what she does best. Putting on her sensible suit at least temporarily Angie performed three poems the first two of which Happiness Lives, and Tandem Causa Bonna Triumphat gave the impression that Angie can be sensible when she has to be . However her final poem proved that Angie like me is sensible only in emergencies and Scarlet Fever the tragic tale of a burlesque artist proved that normal service had been resumed as she came back to her brilliant if ludicrous best.  

As Angie went back to her seat it was the turn of Mary Wilson to share her words with the gathering. On this occassion Mary started with a comic piece about A Snooty Thermostat, she then read two nature based poems after observing the behaviour and habits of squirrels before finishing her set with a poem on getting older entitled Dealing With Age.

Mary was followed by Susan Milligan whose pieces Beyond, and In Heaven For A Day were well received by the company before concluding with a song which this month was I Can Sing A Rainbow. 

As Susan rejoined the company it was time for Peter Russell to entertain the company and this he most certainly did with six excellent poems all of which were elquenty executed in his typical laid back style.  Peter started his set with Visit From A Taxidermist before changing tact completely for A Sestina On The Cafe Neon, he then read the  powerful and thought provoking Our Necks Saved , before noving on to my personal favourite in this set 62 Sunningdale Avenue which is a beautiful poem on his first childhood home. He then concluded his set with Are You Better Yet? and his final poem From The Ground Up. This was a top quality set of well crafted poems for a skilled and talented wordsmith with a keen observational eye. 

Talking of talented wordsmiths it was as always a pleasure to introduce one of my greatest mentors Derek Read who read three poems which were all tied to some extent to his quaker beliefs. In his first poem Diving For Atlantis Derek looked back  with affection on the life of the late Catherine Walker. He then read a piece from the Quaker book by Adrian from Brunei  before finishing with The Gathering. 

Derek was followed by Claire McCann who read a short piece before returning to her seat as Alan McGlas led us to the bar break reading The Hairy And The Smooth which he informed us was based on a biblical story and following it up with the bitingly funny All Over The Place which shall we say was slightly more personal in nature. 

After an enjoyable bar break It was time for our featured  writer and on this occasion it was club stalwart Alex Frew who took his turn in the spotlight. Though primarily known for his more humourous material Alex has many strings to his creative bow and he showed the full range of his work in a set which covered a range of different issues . Alex started his with a poem And Then He Spoke Of Death and followed it up with another slightly more humorous take on the same topic with a poem on what the comedian Billy Connolly would like inscribed on his gravestone entitled Is It That Time Already? 

This was followed by Cutting Down A Tree and a poem on what Alex referred to as night terrors called From The Deeps before the poem which I thought was the highlight of his set Three Photographs Of You in which he pays a brilliant emotional and heartfelt tribute to his mother . It was no surprise to anyone who heard this lovely piece of poetry that he got a wee bit teary on reading it but I’m sure his mother looked down and smiled as he did so and was proud of the son that she raised. Speaking as his friend of more than 20 years I know we are certainly proud of both Alex and his talents. 

Having completed what was undoutably the hardest poem in his set Alex (pictured below) decided to give us a musical interlude with a song titled You Ain’t There before returning to poetry with a piece entitled Patterns. This was followed by the brilliantly funny My Friends Are All On Prozac before winding up his set with Doctor Krippen and A Dear John Letter.  

Picture (1) Our featured Writer Alex Frew shares his thoughts with the gathering)

As Alex went back to take his place amongst the gathering after an immensely enjoyable set it was time for the featured musician to take their place on stage and  this time that honour fell to Alex’s partner in rhyme , crime and musical mayhem and the other half of Ayrshire’s answer to Batman and Robin the one and only Andy Fleming.  Andy like Alex has been a Words And Music regular since the 1990’s and has entertained audiences in his own unique style ever since. 

Andy (pictured below) started his set which with the exception of his last song was made up entirely of covers with Killing By Degrees (Bad Karma) This was followed his rendition of  that well known country song A Heartache Following Me. He then sang both country and Motorhead songs before his unique Johnny Cash style  performance of that 1980’s girly classic which was one of my personal anthems  Girls Wanna Just Have Fun.  He moved on from this with That’s What People Say before performing what he introduced as the Bum Songs but was actually Sea Of Heartbreaks and followed it with the Run DMC song My Adidas And Me before an excellent rendition of the Talking Heads classic Physco Killer  and concluding his planned set with Word Up before we demanded an encore for which he sang one of his own songs Jesus Will Kick Your Sorry Ass. This I think was a fitting way to end a kick ass performance from a top class musican and consummate performer.

Picture (2) Andy Fleming our Featured Musician struming his stuff whilst covering classics 

After our featured performers I sometimes look for someone to bring the room back to normality. Unfortunely I couldn’t find anyone who would do that on this occasion but thankfully Steve Allan who was making a welcome return to the fold after a period of absence was availble to be the penultimate performer of the night and bring even more madness to the evening with his hilarious story about some people arrive in heaven in very quick succession. Since Steve said it didn’t have a title I decided to call it God’s Spreadsheet as I think kinda fitted the narrative of the story. 

With everyone who wanted to having performed it was up to me to bring the night to a close with the final set of the night. I did so with a set of four poems three of which were receiving their first ever performance. 

I started my set with Home Comforts a poem on homelessness which is the only poem in the set which had been performed previously as I have read at a number of events in the last few years. Mindful of the fact that Scotland still had a slim chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup Finals in Russia  I followed this up with a very personal football poem titled Home Win which chronicles my first Scotland match as a woman and shows the emotions I felt on a day which ended with good results for Scotland and for me.

 For my next poem I moved from football to feminism and in Sugar And Spice I set out my very personal agenda as to why stereotyping is a never a good idea and why I set my own rules in life. It has to be said this poem was not universally popular and one good friend went as far as to tell as much when I chatted to him after the event. I feel however that everyone is entitled to their opinion and though I do not agree with him and he by no means spoke for the room his opinion is nonetheless a valid one and I accept it for what it is and agree to differ with him on this opinion. I concluded my set with Badge which was written after a visit to the theatre to a trans related play. This was one of the most personal poems I’ve ever written and to share it with a group of writers which included some of my closest friends just hours after I wrote it meant a lot to me and judging by the reaction it received at the end of the performance I think it also meant a lot to them. 

At the end of the night Steve Allen was kind enough to give me a lift home and as I reflected on the events of action packed evening I thought that we come to the gathering where happiness lives and magical memories are made we all have home wins at the end of the night as we’ve scored personal goals on the stage. 

Till next time .

Gayle X

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Bonfire Of Promises 

On a night when some people celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes with celebrations and firework displays I take a slightly different look at bonfire night. I do this by  taking an alternative look  at the issues of austerity and the homelessness it can and does to lead to. In this poem I explain why I believe the I’m alright Jack mentality has resulted in a culture of apathy in which people are content for others to suffer so long as the suffering doesn’t reach their door and this allows the more reactionary Conservative forces within the UK establishment to have a bonfire of promises. It is with this in mind I have titled my poem Bonfire Of Promises I hope you enjoy the read. 

Bonfire Of Promises 

As I stand in the cold

watching fireworks explode

 a cavalcade of colours

light up the evening sky

like a rainbow

but with no pots of gold at the end

I am lucky when the evening concludes

I will return to the shelter of my flat

after time spent with friends

enjoying the warmth of their company

as the weather turns colder

I walk past a homeless girl

checking my pockets to see if change can be spared 

on this occasion only goodwill can be shared 

and that won’t fill empty stomachs

or remove hunger pains 

in a world where nobody listens

and politicians feed the public a diet of slogans 

designed to blame others for our problems

scapegoating is the road to ignorance

and acceptance of rules

made by others to tighten their grip 

on us and our circumstances

till we believe change is no longer possible

and as long as we’re alright everything is going to be fine 

all we need to do is shut the door

on the outside world

and pretend it doesn’t exist 

but there is a warning in my words 

if we do take this road it will be the vulnerable who suffer 

as we start to view minorities as others 

and allow governments to make

a bonfire of promises

 © Gayle Smith 2017

Private Property 

On the day the UK is plunged in to political uncertainty and Prime Minister Theresa May decided to go the country and call a General Election despite claiming there would be no such election till 2020 you may be surprised to know that my poem for day 18 of NaPoWriMo is not about my thoughts on the upcoming election but on something which I see as far worse and degrading to women and that’s the sex for rent scandal which has come to my attention through the work of National columnist Vonnie Moyes. I have to admit I was genuinely repulsed when I heard of this practice and the fact is happening in the early 21st century in a so-called developed country is something I find both bewildering and sickening. Indeed such was my anger at this act of Victorian style barberism that I had to write a poem on it to make my feelings clear on the issue. I have given the poem the title Private Property I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read.

Private Property

 

It shouldn’t be allowed 

not in a civilised society 

but this is the horrible reality 

for young women in Scotland and Britain today 

we can’t just wish it away 

it’s happening and it’s happening now 

as women struggle to get on to the housing ladder 

unscrupulous males are acting as  landlords 

offering sex for rent

accepting only girls who show pictures 

maybe a flash of leg 

 or a page three shot in  bra’s and knickers 

they and only they will be given a bed for the night 

they will gain this reward 

in  return for satisfying 

their owners pleasures and demands

this is a picture too disgusting to paint  

yet these men ask us to understand 

that they are doing women favours

I disagree,

 you see, I believe every women has the right to shelter 

it is a basic human need 

we cannot condone those who use greed 

to exploit the housing crisis 

for their own immoral ends

we can’t  let this go on 
if we do how long will it be 

before someone is killed by this madness

my sadness on hearing this story 

has given way to anger 

and those who believe

 they can have their own private dancers 

must be shown the error of their ways 

this is not a business arrangement

it’s human trafficking 

 and it needs to be called out for what it is 

we need to tell the guilty 

you can’t get away with this

no man has the right to take 

a women’s kisses 

we do not live in caves 

we will never be slaves 

this crime has to end and end now 

no woman will ever be a cash cow 

we should never be rented out 

our bodies are private property

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The Coldest Season 

On day 10 of Blogmas I share a poem where I look at the the commercial side of our so-called festive season and why when we are wandering round the shops we should stop for a moment and think on others who may not be as fortunate as we are and what if anything we can do to help those abandoned by a society which is becoming more individualistic by the day as Conservative values take hold of western democracies and demonise those in need of genuine help I’ve given it the title The Coldest season I hope enjoy the read.

The Coldest Season

Winter, the coldest season 

where those discarded by a society 

in which winner takes all 

are refused access to the festive cheer 

whilst the rest of us spend 

more than we can afford 

on relatives we’ve ignored 

since last Christmas when we had that argument 

and brought up things best left unsaid 

or if we’re still not talking to them 

we’ll spend  our cash on  new friends 

get in to more debt that a small country 

all because that advert was lovely 

and filled us with the joys of the season 

it is after all time for glad tidings

silver linings of comfort and joy 

we’ll be in good voice singing carols 

at the church we attend once a year 

It’s Santa not Jesus in whom we place our trust 

to meet our needs in the season of goodwill 

but what about the old, the homeless, the ill

thrown to the wolves so others can jingle tills 

in the name of profit 

 of which they will see just enough 

to pay the bills and not a penny extra

this is the not so secret agenda 

of those who would kill the Christmas spirit 

by taking others to the brink

watching them sink from a world 

so immune to their pain 

we don’t see the irony 

when we hurry through shopping malls 

in this the coldest season of the year 

and the song we hear is do they know it’s Christmas. 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

Sharpshooter

Hey Readers 

(Former Scotland Homeless World Cup Star Jamie MacLean)

In my third poem on the Homeless World Cup I focus on a former Scotland hero of past Homeless World Cup’s Jamie MacLean. On being introduced to Jamie I told him I was a blogger and asked if I could have a kind of informal interview with him. Jamie being one of the good guys said yes and was only too happy to answer my questions. The main thing I wanted to find out was what difference being involved in the Homeless World Cup had done for him and how it had changed him as a man. The result of my chat can be seen in the poem which I’ve titled Sharpshooter I hope you enjoy the read.

A Scotland hero from tournaments gone by
he now works in housing
helping people with mental health issues
find accommodation
an inspiration on the pitch
he has changed from sharpshooter
to sharp dressed man
as he sits suited and booted
behind his desk
his job a testament to the power of street soccer at its best
a success story for the game
the star whose name remains unknown
the most important goal he’ll score
will never be seen on TV
or reported in press
as helping those in distress
get out of the position
he used to be in
is a personal motivation
for the sharp shooter

@ Gayle Smith 2016

Playing The Game

Hey Readers

In my second poem in my series of the Homeless World Cup I look back on chats I had with players from many nations on the pride they had in playing for their country. Now as I relax at home in the still of an autumn evening I only hope their countries are treating them with the same respect and they will gain a better life having worn their national colours than they did before they were honoured. I have given it the title Playing The Game I hope you enjoy the read.

Playing The Game

As I mixed and mingled with players of all nations
Poles, Romanians, Irish, Norwegians
in the gentle heat of a Glaswegian summer
I discovered their ambitions and dreams
they knew the value of being part of a team
the friendship the sense of belonging
the pride in the jersey
and more importantly in themselves
I hope they’ve kept the belief they had for that week in July
when playing the game brought smiles from the faces of strangers
I pray they are safe from danger
have been given opportunities
valued as part of their communities
in the countries whose colours they wore with pride
I hope they were kept onside
with no flag happy uncivil servants to stop them
and their goals were allowed to stand

Two of the team from Team Romania
image

@ Gayle Smith 2016

Samba In The Square

Hey Readers

image

This is the first of a series of poems on football with a difference and the football I’ll be writing about is the Homeless World Cup which took place in my home city of Glasgow this summer and brought a carnival atmosphere to our city centre as 64 teams from 52 countries took part in a footballing fiesta which was one of my highlights of what was a very busy and enjoyable summer. This poem tells the story of my first game of this street soccer tournament a nine goal thriller between Brazil and Bulgaria. I’ve given it the title Samba In The Square I hope you enjoy the read.

Samba In The Square

On a sunny summer Wednesday
I saw my first game of the Homeless World Cup
Brazil and Bulgaria the teams
in a miniature theatre of dreams
It kicked off on a Sunday afternoon when I was otherwise engaged
but as I watched the world in Glasgow
there was a carnival atmosphere when Brazil took the stage
and samba came to the square
just like their big team
they had the same artistic flair
and similar frailties at the back
attack was their only form of defence
nothing else made sense
to the masters of the beautiful game
whose yellow strips matched the warmth
of the early evening sun
It was my first game
at this global football fiesta
Brazil won 7-2
despite their dodgy defenders
I wanted them to win the title
if Scotland didn’t get to the final
but somehow I sensed
after just one game the title wouldn’t be theirs to claim
and another team would take the trophy

@ Gayle Smith 2016