Poetry Readings

Costa Café, Bold St (14th and 24th July 2008)

Reviewed by William Park

14th July

I was a little dismayed to have positioned myself discreetly - but rather foolishly - behind a plant to the side of the stage for this reading, but I’m glad to say this merely added to the strange juxtapositions Alice Lenkiewicz created in her work.

She read excerpts from her collection 'Men Hate Blondes', and sang a piece on ‘Why Ultramarine is Blue’ from her novella 'Maxine'. 'Blacestonia' was experimental - influenced by the work of Maggie O’Sullivan - though I think it’s fair to say ‘experimental’ is a term that could describe much of Alice’s work. She edits Neon Highway, a magazine that proclaims itself to be for ‘experimental and innovative poetry’. The interviews in that magazine are always interesting to read.

'A Chant For The Abused Woman' ended the set – it was a piece for two voices, and Alice was joined by her male partner to read out parts too.

Among my reservations about ‘experimental’ writing is that it’s sometimes an excuse to be unfocused and an elaborate over-use of words, and this came to the fore. 'Harlow Dharma', for example, ends: ‘To be transmitted into vulnerable domesticity and pixelated beyond a treasured memory.’ What does this mean? I did ask the poet on the night, and she agreed that pixel does relate to elements of a picture, and the poet is an artist too (and daughter of famous artist Robert Lenkiewicz). But this didn’t leave me much the wiser - and there’s also pixilated (different spelling) as in being eccentric or drunk, which wouldn’t fit here.

The pieces were read out clearly, well-paced, and overall the variety of work was interesting and stimulating. Sometimes the imagery was vivid: ‘the sound of ground coffee beans and the comforting sheen of sunlight’ ('Harlow Dharma'). I preferred it like that, rather than when it became too intriguing, to the point of obfuscation.

Jeff Cottrill from Toronto ended the evening’s readings. He was energetic and brash in his delivery, and at one point he wore a white wig to read a poem – I have to confess I’ve forgotten why. His chapbook is 'Guilt Pasta'. At times he was funny, but not that funny – so to my mind his self-confidence was a touch misplaced. This can be the problem with some ‘performance’ poets. They get caught up in appreciating their own entertainment, while forgetting to deliver the goods.

July 24th

Three readers this evening, all with an American connection, and a packed house – I counted somewhere between seventy and eighty people.

The readings got better as the evening progressed. Unfortunately, Jennifer Ryan from Buffalo simply read too many, in a monotonous way, and they were all non-emotive; written, it seemed, from the intellect alone.

Karen Sands O’Connor - an assistant professor in Buffalo - was much more engaging, and conveyed some vivid narratives. I particularly liked 'Patients', about hospital visitors.

Undoubtedly though, the star was Rebecca Goss. Her pamphlet Keeping Houston Time was published some time ago by Slow Dancer Press, a magazine and press which is no more, sadly, but which had strong links with creative work from America. Rebecca has had recent work in Ambit, Mslexia, and many other magazines. She teaches at John Moores University, Liverpool. She was confident, zestful, and humorous, and her poems were sensuous and vivid. She’ll be reading on Wednesday 15th October with Paul Durcan at the Bluecoat Arts Centre.

Next reading at Costa is Thursday, 28th August.

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Comment left by sarah Byrne on 30th August, 2008 at 13:31
I attended and expected some great reading, the poems were intresting and sharp, but the reading let them down. Except that is of Rebecca Goss, who read like a dream and added a feeling like they had just been read to a lone lover! Fantastic

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