Saturday, March 27, 2010

Poetry Then

So yesterday evening I snuck in to see Justin Quinn, Luljeta Lleshanaku, and Philip Gross, again down in Dun Laoighaire at the Poetry Now Festival. (I'm getting in free by volunteering to help out with a festival survey by the way, in case you're wondering about all the sudden reading-going activity)

Anyway - it was interesting. This is the first formal poetry reading I've been at for a long while, and there are some big differences between this and the Open Mic type stuff I've been mostly seeing of late. For one thing - it's definitely a tougher crowd for the poets, there's no applauding between poems, and little shouting up from the crowd type interaction (apart from the undesirable type reported yesterday!)... Having said that, there was a quieter atmosphere in which to read, which probably suited some of the poets - they didn't have to fight for the attention of the crowd. They were poetry lovers and fans already.

First up was Justin Quinn. He's been living in Eastern Europe for the last 20 years, but read us some sonnets based on his recollections of his youth in Blackrock. He assumed a lot of locals were in the audience in his introductions, which wasn't true of me, but didn't hamper my enjoyment of his poems. For me he was the most touching of the night - with his poem about his Child - and how very young children are both boyish and girlish - a vivid image of his child sweeping hair out of their face like a woman before landing a punch to his groin with the declaration "That's the Batman way" was the standout best moment of the night for me.

Next was Luljeta Lleshanaku, an Albanian poet - and here's the new thing learned - the Albanian alphabet was only standardised in 1909. Anyway - she was a very charming performer, warm and honest, and had some really interesting thoughts to share. One of her comments was from her time working in a carpet factory while it was still a communist country, and her marvelling at how her colleagues adored the characters from literature, idealised the beauty and drama in said characters lives, while not seeing the same in the people and lives around them. Her poem "Old News" captured that thought. She also read in Albanian for us, which was nice, for the local Dun Laoghaire Albanians.

Finally was Philip Gross, a household name - the nice man from Poetry Ireland told us. He came out and without introduction or explanation gave us his first poem. Then introduced and explained after that he had dared himself to do so. He has a quirky delivery style and a dramatic voice befitting a Star Wars narrator (if there was such a thing), and revels in writing about the ordinary - Mud and Water featured highly in his set. He read some extracts from the Water Garden - a result, he explained, of a game where he imagined how you would design a garden completely of water. His final poem was for me the highlight, a poem directed at kids (but he did say he'd never write something for kids that he didn't think adults would like too) - about a boat made out of poems...
(he must've heard about the poetry bus - if you're reading Philip - you should climb on some day)

Off now to see who wins The Irish Times - Poetry Now 2010 award...


Anonymous said...

Philip Gross is very good supposedly. You culture-vulture.

Niamh B said...

Hi Dave, Yes he was interesting, but like I say - Justin touched a nerve with me more.