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Brendan tops the bill on another packed poetry evening

Above: Brendan Cleary at Write Angle

Review: Petersfield Write Angle, October | Upstairs @ The Square B

Cleary stars in a night of brilliant entertainment featuring superb poetry performed, as ever, with great passion…

Brendan Cleary started with having ‘Woke up in Czechoslovakia after a splitting headache from 80% vodka, he is speaking the language, has a beautiful Czech wife and three beautiful Czech children, a Czech house…, and having read Kafka in the original and Philip Marlowe in translation….’ not knowing how it happened….

It’s obvious Brendan loves performing, loves people and loves writing poetry. Hard to separate one from the other. He ‘is’ his poetry.

From ‘I never met anyone named Steve, to his unreciprocated ‘love affair’ with Kylie Minogue, to tender poems about his dead brother, Martin, (called ‘Faceman or Facey or Big Face)’ to his adoration of Manchester United - he includes a quote by Ian Hamilton, ‘Did he think poetry at perfect, could bring back the dead’. Brendan believes ‘Yes, the Faceman is back with us’.

He’s a powerful, yet gentle poet who reads with a strong lilting Irish dialect - a big man who moves around a lot - ‘I’m not photographical’, he smiles warmly, ‘That way I can’t be caught’.

His language is simple and honest. He performs each poem like prose, yet seeing his poems written, you see how concise and profound they are. He has an intimacy with language that can address incomprehensible loss with profound clarity.

“Wait till you hear his Nina Simone poem,” Barry Smith, Chichester Open Mic, whispered, - and I waited for ‘It’s Our Dance’, ‘Every Sunday I play Nina Simone’s ‘my baby just cares for me’, and with a different flower in your hair every week, you spring out from the bar, and I leave the mixing desk and we dance with our hangovers….and for a few precious moments, it’s as if we have all swallowed the moon and everyone is lighter and the world might not ever end’.

There are pubs that have ‘happy hours’, he said, ‘but I drink at unhappy hours! People are my friends and they matter!’ Brendan brings humour, pathos and love (betting at the track as well). We highly recommend you see him if you can, and buy all his books, including ‘Face’.

Following, Erfran Deliri, (Iranian) from Tasmania, now on UK tour, told in poem and prose how he lives in a cabin in the woods, sometimes not seeing anyone for weeks.

(If Brendan never met a Steve, he did as Erfan produced his new book, ‘Estaban’s Conclusions’) . He talked of being a ‘p/t lover and a f/t hater’, and tried to hang himself. His father, imprisoned at 17, was then exiled. In 1984, brought his family to Australia only to hear, ‘Why should this country take in a useless immigrant’. ‘We were swimmers in the world of return to the soul of the universe. We are the flying fish of these eternal waters’. A strong poet with a mission. ‘Ten thousand moments of hindsight will never amount to a single moment of clarity in the present….’ A good poet with much to say.

Helen Whitten did ‘Anthology’, a clever and lovely poem, inspired by the books Howard Jacobson would never give away - which got her thinking which books helped form her life. Starting with Walter de la Mare, then Byron, Yeats, Pascale… ‘Who’s that knocking at my door’, to Pasternack, ‘who’s that crying at my door’ …an infant son who died.

Now she wonders ‘which poet will next direct my hand, inflame my heart’. Dave Allan, now a professional poet, performed ‘Flush Me Gentl’, (inspired by One Tree Books’ toilet), ‘I will turn the other cheek. Leave me up or leave me down. Just flush me gently’… clever, well-performed as ever by our latest ‘open mic star’.

Richard Hawtree, as oblique as highly descriptive, and interesting to listen to, did ‘A burning of Sappho’s coins AD1023 - a story made up in the Renaissance – the burning of Sappho’s poems; then read ‘Vespar Vulgaris’.
Last summer 1915, a vast number of wasps - the Queens appeared…(to do with former Dragons boss Paul Turner, a serious contender to become director of rugby at cash-strapped London Wasps - we wonder but doubt…). Caroline Blackburn then performed ‘You know what Thought did’. ‘He removes you from what is seen by mankind’. Would like to see more of her work.

Brian Clarke did a highly evocative World War I poem, ‘Remembrance’, well received by the audience - ‘I don’t know where he was born… if his name was Wolfgang, Hanz or Fritz… but I remember his blue eyes… a throbbing silence…his helmet falling…’

A strong piece of work. Barry Smith, of Chichester’s Open Mic, did ‘Transubstantiation’, about Elvis on the rise at Bryston. ‘I know it was him. He was separating the twin black sheep from the herd. (what is real and what isn’t?) Then, ‘Antigone’, ‘a dysfunctional family, including a rebellious adolescent, murder, incest, crackdown of adult authority - no, not Coronation Street - summarising the story of Antigone, daughter of Oedipus’.
Barry amazingly does it again! Bringing history to the present in his inimitable style.

Chris Sparkes followed with ‘Strong Hooch’, summoning random flashes of memories - his brother found hanging on a shoelace; being called ‘a hippie academic’, fishing, winning at arts festivals, jazz …being shown man doesn’t have a soul…’ nostalgia in poetic form! Very good poem.

Richard Davies, who restores houses, then did ‘Cousteau in a Car’ exploring birds (as flying fish) imaginative and well done. Then, ‘Fish in Stone’, where he describes a relic he found. ‘Death has such strange dominions’. Interesting and creative ideas!

Audi Maserati sang to his guitar, making it sound ‘mystical’, called ‘The day Franz Dostoevsky found the original transcript of Voltaire’s ‘Princess of Babylon’ in the inside pocket of his second best suit’ (if you didn’t guess, that was the title). Then, ‘Enough is Sunshine’, describing ‘A tree is not a forest. A grain of sand is not a beach’ - lovely song, well sung as only Audi can do.

James Philips, aka Philip Javens, back after a long break, played ‘My Funny Valentine’ on his keyboard, as well as ‘something lost that can’t be found again’, inspired by d’Angelo. Good playing. His music was wonderful. We hope he returns soon.

Lastly, Sven Stears, soon to start his own slam/open mic called ‘Inkbomb’, in Kent - we’ll keep you posted - did ‘3434’ about a poet who’s a rebel wanting to stop all restraints, growing up with his poetry, and ending with ‘no poem can stand on its own. It needs the audience to get it to 10. The audience was invited to join in, and they did.

The raffle for free meals for two at Fez, the local Turkish restaurant, was won by Phyllida Carr. Another good and full night was had by all, and we’re looking forward to Patience Agbabi as our November guest. Another great performer!

Petersfield Write Angle,








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