OH MY HOLY GOD, YOU GUYS. We’re all in withdrawal from Glasto so let’s relive it together, day by day, shall we?
The poetry at this stage Friday was face-melting, honest, and compelling as hell. Let’s hear about the first few hours, take a wee, then come back for more.
We opened with Antipoet, the two-man, kilt-adorned, madcap bunch of poetic punks who have possibly the hardest job of the weekend, opening each stage from scratch at the start of the day. The two mix music and poems, a double bass and high heeled patent leather boots. They introduce the audience to the martial artist physiotherapist, where ‘the only thing that lets him down is his bedside manner…” they go on to describe the ‘light saber in mummy’s special drawer…little baby you know bullshit when you smell it cause you’ve so much to endure.” Somehow they manage to create a magic energy from scratch at the start of each day, and offer a kind of solace and call to arms: “There’s no money in performance poetry,’ they sing. “We’ll play for sex! We’ll play for food!”
‘Did they just say they’d play for sex?’ asked an audience member at the edge of tent behind me. ‘Who wouldn’t?’ his companion replied.
Emily Harrison begins the day and has a kind of unapologetic confidence as she leads us down a path of fearless honesty on love, mental health, and a frank openness buoyed by a subtle comic timing and detail. On posh boys, she says ‘I want you to take me to the kind of restaurants where you order bread for the table.’ On revenge, she says it’s best served by the one who prepped it.’ Her serious subject matter is interlaid with comic gems: on a date at a fair she says, ‘Fairgrounds are where children get abducted.’ She did a poem about a mistress showing up at her lover’s funeral against his wife’s wishes, wearing ‘Tantrum’ red lipstick: ‘her holding the bible, me with dirty knees,’ which also went down a storm in a teepee next to a nudist colony the night before, backed by a live band. There’s a deep current beneath these pieces, and an empathy, and a wicked sense of how to title them. She leaves the audience shook and filled with a kind of power with her refrain: ‘I am worth the trouble to keep.’ What a legend.
Roy Hutchins Reads Heathcote Williams
In a unique concoction of a music collaboration Roy Hutchins honors the work of Heathcote Williams accompanied by a musician on guitar. ‘The world began when we got tired of nothing,’ he begins, covering topics of establishment intrusion and the state of the nation. Fierce and eloquent, full of fire, he talks about electronic surveillance and in an accusation and rallying cry says ‘real terrorists hide behind banks and governments.’
Down from (near) Manchester, Kieran brought his own unique sensibility to the Glasto stage, offering an ode and lament to punk rock with the refrain ‘no more heroes…I’ve got my own mind I don’t need anyone to follow – I want a Shaun Ryder but I’m stuck with Bono.’ He is one of those poets who seems completely comfortable in front of an audience, as though he’s using his finely-tuned poems to offer them a tour of his house. This is a remarkable gift. He gives a love letter to Solford, his home town, too often a victim of Manchester claiming it during its victories and blaming it during its failures, painting his city as a ‘broadway musical.’ His poems touch on family and class and the fairytale of ordinary life, and he delves into it with love, and into love with all of its stumblings: The ‘Man who drives you mild…can’t make you cry like I can.’ In his poem on the note to self he entreats, ‘you don’t have to hide who you are…hauling the very breath from the audience as he finishes with life-charged cry: ‘Shadows fall behind you when you turn to face the sun. Don’t look back.’
Jasmine has a kind of unadorned confidence that becomes astonishingly compelling on stage. She is one of those poets who seems to grow a foot (a decilitre? A kilogram? I’m American. Anyway, a lot.) when she opens her mouth on stage. And the language: it’s gorgeous. “Why does she write in nightclubs? She’s got blueprints all over her left limb and she ignores the men sticky as the floor.” Jasmine has this mad skill in creating new, unexpected structures for poems — in the midst of her nightclub poem her voice falls silent with an imagined beat, the inevitable staccato, chopped conversation of someone shouting in a bar. She tells a story of coming out, inhaling and exhaling homophobic terms as they rise in her life, and in her mind, as air does. Also a teacher/activist for sexual education, she ends on an extraordinary piece that pulls the audience into a kind of choreographed witness, confession, and listening. She puts a new spin on the facilitator’s tool of asking an audience to raise their hands for a series of scenarios, with a cleverness that just gets more clever the more times you hear the piece: “If anyone has ever pressured you, you don’t have to do a thing for me.” Wherever she says to go, the audience follows.
Michael James Parker
Michael James Parker joined us last minute and the audience was luckier for it. He arrives on a kind of tide of poetic rage, looking with unabashed honesty at the state of the nation, at regret and nostalgia and a vision of wildness. On the UK and the Tories he looks at trickle down economics and the great grinding of the poor: ‘if the dregs of my wine dribble down my legs, lick it up. ‘ With a outraged political howl he asks ‘if you tax me do I not bleed?’ in Primal Scream he moved on to the uses and elements of art: “I want to write poems that sound like a look when I’m dancing.” A compelling presence on stage, he left us with a kind of call to arms, a cathartic push for something better.
Laurie Bolger is another poet who seems fantastically comfortable on stage. Her voice has a kind of lilt that gives an audience the sense they are being confided in, that some sort of reality they never had a voice for was being recounted as an anecdote. And she’s funny — ‘Snoring so loud you could be sucking the paint off the walls.’ In her anti-hipster ode to the old man pub, ‘I’m drinking beer in a bar with no atmosphere…in some tarted up boozer in Shoreditch.’ She offers elegies for old London and a kind of lost authenticity. There are lines in her set which arrest: on a breakup, she talks about ‘a look that fastens us.’ In ‘Ode to Your New Girlfriend’ which spans internet stalking, love and melancholy, watching as a distant witness to a person you used to know: ‘She’s a pop song, you’re a song people want played at their funeral…one of those songs that’s difficult to cover because there’s so much going on.” She tells stories that are relatable in their common honesty, “I’ve lost it in the veg aisle” and the entire audience is charmed, charmed utterly.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT BATCH!!