Last night, we hosted the seventh Fen Speak poetry open mic at the Babylon Gallery in Ely, and I think it’s fair to say that it was an evening of surprises!
Nineteen talented performers took to the stage to share their poetry and prose, and we were delighted to see a great mix of new faces and returning talent. And, if that wasn’t enough, we were also lucky to have performances from six of our ten Fenland Poet Laureate finalists including the new Fenland poet Laureate herself!
Regular Fen Speaker Paul Quant delivered a wonderful lyrical piece to kick off the evening, and it was great to hear Helen Pletts’ third-prize winning poem again too. Hopefully this marks her first of many performances at our open mic events! Then, Rosemary Westwell read a very beautiful, personal poem about her husband, which really impressed the crowd. Congratulations must go to Miriam Brown for her latest publication, which she kindly recited for us all. I'm always struck by Miriam's keen eye for detail, and it was lovely to be able to hear this new piece from her.
A wonderful expressive performance from Ashley Fox was followed by fantastic examples of NaPoWriMo poetry from our visiting Cambridgean wordsmiths Fay Roberts and Emma Ormond. Jonathan Totman’s poem about the London Underground was full of gorgeous imagery and skillful internal rhyme, while our new Fenland Poet Laureate – Poppy Kleiser – gave an absolutely fantastic rendition of her winning poem.
Bob Sheed delivered a hilarious alternative interpretation of the Humpty Dumpty myth, and first time Fen Speaker Simone Navon performed a collection of lovely haiku that were very warmly received. (We really hope to see more of Simone in the future!) George Ashdown reprised his epic love poem while Alan Bardouleau performed a piece of prose with a distinctive voice and a surprising twist.
Liam Brown gave an absolutely fantastic rendition of The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert Service, and the audience was completely enthralled as he recited the entire poem from memory. Dominic O’Sullivan lampooned small town local councils to great effect in his first piece, and then shifted gears completely with a subtle and soulful piece of prose. Robin Morton’s poem about his grandmother was incredibly moving, and Tony McCormack’s fantastic poetry rounded off the evening beautifully! (His ‘misogyny’ poem was one of my highlights of the evening!)
We also heard two excellent poems from my Fen Speak co-host Elaine Ewart, in celebration of the publication of her first poetry collection Fur, Feather and Fen. It’s a wonderful anthology that brings together all of the poems Elaine wrote during her tenure as Fenland Poet Laureate in 2012. You can pick up a copy of Fur, Feather and Fen from the Welney Wild Fowl and Wetlands Visitor Centre, or from Toppings bookshop in Ely.
But by far the most surprising (and wonderful) poem came from Fen Speak regular David Hogg. David gave us all quite a shock just before the interval by proposing to his girlfriend in poetry, live on stage! It was incredibly romantic, and luckily, Hannah said yes!
Not many poetry open mic nights can boast an on-stage engagement!
But seriously, congratulations to David and Hannah! It was another fantastic (and surprising) Fen Speak. Thank you to everyone who came along and donated on the night, and a special thanks to everyone who performed! You are all incredible and Fen Speak would be nothing without you!
Our next event is at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum on Wednesday 21st May, and we’ll be back at the Babylon Gallery on Wednesday 18th June. Check out our facebook page for more information.