Openned at the Foundry, Old Street, London
In a mildly smoky and dank cellar below Old Street`s, The Foundy, a cluster of uni-scenesters congregate on a night that is humid and expectant. At the front, well-lit and theatrically draped in noir fabric, a poet announces (rough translation), "a Canadian cannot find his ass with both hands." A vibe of coolness and contented smiles are shared between cigarettes and sips of water. The poet (looking like a cross between the Brazilian footballer Leonardo and a ragged Peter Fonda) adds, "allowing to a shortage of cocaine I turned my back on public life." A tone is set, mildly serious but also mildly strange as if the poet is not a poet at all but a lawyer deconstructing a court case. During the break which follows, an earlier performance poet, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, who recited poetry while asking the audience to prompt her to "skip", "stop", and "review" her work, chats amiably with friends. Seeing this as a chance to hop to the loo, I arrive, instead at the the bar and ask for pints of beer to take downstairs.
During the second act we are treated to another poet, Keston Sutherland (pictured, below), less controlled, perhaps angrier, with a fierce shock of hair, who read a series of poems and observations which had the audience listening with interest, bristling, even. "Am I too low for the flymo?" he announces, then to the amusement of all, he added, "You can`t put shit back in the donkey!"
Two things noticed as I wait to interview the proprietors of the evening, Stephen Willey and Andrew Davies: 1. Still no piss AND 2. My father`s watch says 'Time for God." Time to interview the lads, no?
Openned Up! at the Foundry, Old Street Tube.
The two promoters, Stephen Willey and Alex Davies (pictured, below, right) started the idea at Royal Holloway at the University of London with the idea of opening a magazine combining politics and experimental poetry with an openness - hence the idea for the reading series: Openned.
"Part of it," says Willey, "comes from an anger I have of how they teach poetry at school. I find it patronizing. Also we are living in political times. Poetry is powerful. We want to use language in a divisive way, encourage people to think for themselves. There are adverts that say: Image is everything. Or, as in the case of the re-named Mars Bar, now called Believe. Why is the bar called Believe? Who says? People don`t want to be told and they don`t want to be manipulated."
Adds co-founder Alex Davies, "Poetry is in excess of everything that can be said in an essay. There is a vitality to it."
As the series grows, and there appears to be more demand and spaces in London opening up, others like Penned in the Margins are gaining recognition. This is fine with Davies, who says with a shrug,"we haven`t set ourselves up in direct opposition to anybody."
Looking around the room and judging by the quality of observation here and young faces it is easy to see that this night might be a success but for now the lads are putting the series on hold till September, as Davies states, "We`re off to China for the summer to make ipods."
The series resumes in September.
Penned in the Margins reviewed