Saturday Part 2

Gecko is ushered onto the stage by Rosy Carrick, technicians, and Portishead. He kicks off with I Can’t Know All The Songs (we chorus – in harmony! – until the end), a perfectly formed intro song, followed by the piece that I probably know best of his: Rapunzel. It’s incredibly catchy, and unashamedly feminist, basically doing what fanfic writers call a fix-it of the original tale. More mythology follows as he turns out a rap/ recitative adapting The Tooth Fairy into modern job parlance. I miss the next song (with singing accompaniment by Maya(?)) as I have lost the will to be in the swelter any longer, so stand in the shade outside the tent, catching as much breeze as will make a difference. We’re all glad that there’s no rain, and mud is minimal, but it’s as stuffy and sticky as the third circle of Hell in the tent. He ends with a sweet tribute to the magic of childhood. We’ve seen so many styles in this short span of time, and this is elegiac, joyful paean which fast-forwards to a bleak-looking old age, leavened by mythical memories. The technician gives him the perfect level of reverb – enough to lift it into legend, without drowning us in soft-focus glurge – and he punctuates the different moods with whole-body movement, gleefully bestriding and then slumping at the microphone. And he takes us with him. Bravo! The crowd agrees!

Desree takes to the stage again in a swelter, her first poem lauded by the audience who look to be unconscious with heat, but absolutely there with her. I am distracted with a bunch of admin (people, hydration, and data charges – yeah, no WiFi, mate), sadly, but I love the fragments of these new poems I hear, tackling body image, race, abuse, and toxic relationships (with others and ourselves). She ends with that anthemic piece about privilege with aplomb. It’s from her teeny chapbook, and she takes cards as well as cash – GET ONE. I’m definitely doing so.

Luke Wright takes to the stage to The Fratellis. It’s a perfect young punk, chanty, ranty, loud and clever intro to a striding length of man with deliberately messy hair and a DIY-style “PUTA MADRE” teeshirt (Google it – I’m not telling you). After a typical rhyming rant about Good Morning Britain and all it means (“Piers Morgan says: ’You can’t say anything these days! You can’t say anything these days! You can’t say anything these days! You can’t say anything these days!’ And yet you seem to, Piers!”) which slides into something deliberately quieter and slower, he confirms the fact slipped into Rosy’s introduction that they kissed earlier. He tells us that there’s a sliver of shade behind the Cabaret tent that’s sheltered him through the toxic, omnipresent heat, gives us quiet ode to his children. A pier-end-style marching band outside underlines the outro, a bigger contrast unimaginable, flourishes of music fanfaring Luke’s disquiet (confusing since he’s been performing here for actual decades – he’s been doing this since his teens). His children feature strongly – the love is glowing, palpable, quiet and beautiful (even when he’s voicing his seven-year-old as an East End villain). The other love (apart from Rosy – Tank Girled and cast as a PVC goddess) that gets immortalised is of Bungay, where he lives, in anecdote form, describing how uncool it is in the way that you complain about your favourite ancient anything (cardigan, uncle, cat, car, movie). As well as being the first person to drop the c-word (to my knowledge) on the Poetry stage this year (Mavericks after dark is another story), he dissects British culture – social anxiety, snobbishness, inferiority complexes and all. Embrace The Wank is in defence of pretentiousness, telling the audience that, were he in charge they’d be locked in, unable to wander – “it’s not about entertainment, it’s about bettering yourselves!” and he shouts himself hoarse with a series of epithets, the one that creases me into a spasm of mirth being something like “Let me bathe in a pool of expert jism!” The final track is a slow, sad ode to knowing Britain by its motorways – the life of a touring poet revisited, appropriately. The massed audience are rapturous.

Erin Fornoff takes to the stage to a track I know but have no idea of the name. She frugs and twirls with extraordinary verve, scarlet fabric flitting to the renewed breeze, tells us that we’re entering the Feelings Zone. Home proves her words. Her esprit d’escalier poem about her horrific mentor (see yesterday’s revelation). Her style is more mobile this time. I’m finding it fascinating who moves more or less today, who’s louder, who’s quieter, who has the same set, and who different. I’m losing focus – I’m not designed for the heat (likewise not from the desert, I am all about dim, wet, windy, cool places – thanks, genetics), but, like Eve before her, I’m enjoying different elements from this near-identical set as I continue to brush spiders from my keyboard and bless the breeze that’s finally caressing us. Erin (who got me an ice cream earlier, carried safely across the length of a baking Bella’s Field and beyond, like the bottomlessly kind soul that she is) spots Lemn Sissay standing at the back, who’s turned up early to hang out (and be mobbed in short order by organisers, technicians, artists, and other fans)

Toby Campion takes to the stage, still summery as hell in dungarees and white teeshirt (what is it with me noticing clothes today?!), giving us, as promised, the same set as last night (and, as promised, The Antipoet are doing their best to drown him out from the other stage across the field), and again – despite having seen it yesterday (and a similar set a couple of other times), I enjoy not only the craft and the words, but the warmth he bestows on the audience, friendly and engaged despite the audience being a fraction of yesterdays, holding them seemingly effortlessly. (And I got another nosebleed during this, which somewhat impeded my typing ability.) His finishing, crescendoing rant about a homophobic attack at Glastonbury 2016 is given a beautiful underlay of building bass to add ominousness to the message he’s giving us.

Headliner Lemn Sissay takes to the stage to glorious music and rapturous applause, comments on the music, throws himself off, and asks if he can come on again as he’s put himself off. It’s oddly comforting to see someone so very experienced, so very lauded, wanting to perfect their entrance, their presence. His first piece, Let Go, is advice to be yourself, despite what people tell you. It is preacherly, a story, a parable, a song of mythological proportions. And, in perfect, unchanging rhythm, a wheelchair user with a vocal tic barks a counterpoint to his words (sometimes echoing a word he uses, but mostly “hey!” or single-syllable epithets) that a) oddly enhances his performance, b) does not seem to throw him in any way whatsoever. He then points out that this is an unusual kick-off poem – it’s long, and thinky, and difficult (and uneasy), lambasting slam poetry – you shouldn’t be doing this to get people to like you, say what you really want to say, not what you think the audience want to hear. He then deconstructs his own performance, and his own thought process, with a breakdown of the voices in his head, with in-jokes about arts funding and what the arts means, and how the industry separates artists from community, with a series of terrible insults and jokes, with the person with the tic echoes back. (“Nobcheese!” is my favourite.)

Invisible Kisses is next, which apparently gets used in weddings a lot (“If you used this for your wedding and you didn’t pay me, I just want you to know that you’ve robbed a black man!” – the almost entirely white audience laughs knowingly). At this point he acknowledges the involuntary heckler with a comic stare. The vocal tic doesn’t work with the rhythm of this particular poem, I have to say…

(I don’t have to say, obviously, but I’m trying to place you here. This might also be the point to tell you that I raced outside after his set to track her down, and it turns out that it was none other than Jess Thom, otherwise known as Tourettes Hero, and you can see her at Astrolane, apparently!)

The passion of his delivery, against all the background noises makes it more powerful than any version I’ve so far seen online.

The next poem is old, addressing a social worker who bullied him when he was a child. He is one of the most parenthetical poets I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot of Jonny Fluffypunk), the chaotic, nesting statements of his between-poem anecdotes and explanations are a glorious contrast to the crafted structure of the poems. He tells us he’ll cut out the swearing, at which point Jess Thom shouts a beautifully timed f-word, and Mr. Sissay decides to address her explicitly (“I suppose I’d better talk to you…”). The poem itself turns out to be shorter than the explanation by whole minutes. He slaloms between anecdotes, explanation, lies, and poems, and the distinction between them starts to break down. The crowd loves everything he offers them, and I’m enthralled and all – this is different from the poetry films readily available online, more like a TED Talk or a lecture from the most rock ’n’ roll poetry lecturer EVER. Disfunctional stops a few bars in because he can’t find it in his book. It’s impossible to tell whether this is deliberate craft or a beautiful insight into a very human performer. Poe’s Law in action?

It’s nothing like what I was expecting, including the gaffes, the fourth-wall breaking, the deconstruction, losing his place, forgetting his way. After an exchange about cats with the person with the inadvertent heckler, he forgets what he’s doing next, and someone suggests one he approves of, even though he wasn’t going to do it. So Flock of Sound roars, sings, and stamps unplanned into the space, and the tic is in perfect syncopation with it, and we holler for it, and he follows it up with something similarly rhythmic and anthemic, a powerful ode to Martin Luther King. He bounces with renewed energy in its wake: “Thank you! Sometimes I forget myself!” And now he’s flying, chanting, gathering us with him to rise in his glorious slipstream in his namechecking goddesses and heroines as he calls out praise to womanhood.

His last is Architecture, for his friend Vikas, who’s in the audience. He thanks us for attending, despite the huge number of other things we could be doing in this massive festival. The imagery is deliberately huge, stamping its way into our consciousness. And, of course, we roar for an encore, and he gives us an intro about trust and forgiveness (you can stay angry, but forgiveness helps us to let go – and it’s not about the people you’re forgiving, but for you to put the burden down, and helps you be stronger, change things, and being an activist). Open Up talks about the heritage of migration in industrial Britain, about what “belonging” means, a rallying cry to open all boundaries.

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Friday Part 2

Compere Dominic Berry kicks us off with one of my favourite poems of his (I Will Not Treat My Friend Like An iPod), roaring us into excited appreciation of poetry (Bowie on the Pyramid Stage makes another appearance as an inducement to whoops)

Paula Varjack makes the best entrance through the saloon doors, glorious in gold lame and attitude, and she launches into the dark, burlesque rant of Commodity, following it up with My Country, and then her piece about strip clubs, covering race, international culture, shame, sexuality, self-definition, identity, the masks of intimacy and expression acroas her pieces. Paula blends confession and storytelling, summoning the audience closer for something new and even more visceral about her first experience of London queer culture, written for seminal London club Heaven. It’s wonderfully, horribly reminiscent of my own first 90s gay club experience (except that I had a straight mate who insisted on dragging me out for my birthday, and I didn’t get off with anyone, and this was the only gay club in Cardiff and… you know what? never mind…), with a fantastic soundtrack I want to dance to as though I’m in my 20s again (don’t worry – I still dance like that; it doesn’t take much; I probably will later). She checks that the parent of the one child in the audience is fine with hedonistic sex and drugs references to finish us off. This is Glastonbury. They’re fine. We’re all fine. And I’m never going to look at coffee the same way again…

Dominic gives us The Beleaguered Vegan, a barnstormer of a poem which talks of uncomfortable facts about meat and dairy production.

Brian McMahon Gallagher takes to the stage (again through the batwings to induced roars from the audience) to launch into a piece about how Shakespeare is shite, and how true love isn’t proved by “topping yourself after your first shag.” It meanders via toxic masculinity and gender roles, and concludes that maybe true love isn’t depicted that often is because true love might be boring. Then he suggests he gets his panic attack poem out of the way (apparently all poets have a panic attack poem; wish I’d known – that might have made my own a little easier to bear – maybe Irish poets are more forthcoming), followed by getting his Irish poem out of the way (his term!), written for the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Republic – Was It For This? Toxic masculinity and homophobia (internalised and externalised) thread through the next few poems as well.

Dominic Berry brings us his poems about video games and social anxiety next, then encourages us to scream for Erin, as though Bowie, Prince, and Keith Flint had formed a supergroup.

Erin Fornoff takes to the stage, shimmying through the batwings to the twirl of harp music, and launches into that poem of hers that I love immoderately – Home – followed up by a classic #MeToo/ #TimesUp poem about the kind of subtextual casting couch abuse that successful men love to sow as ways to get into less powerful people’s heads and pants (don’t go to lunch with Peter Sheridan, is the advice – and yes, I have permission to blog that!). She excels in word portraits in a few spare words, vignette after vignette scrolling by like you’re meeting people in her life, limned with her love. She talks about loss in such a fluid, beautiful way that it eases it, somehow. I’d love to bring her poetry with me, and apparently, I’ll have a chance to buy her book (Hymn To The Reckless, named after a gorgeous poem that’s love and fire and the glory of the memorably ephemeral). Guess I know where my cash is going (unless she’s up for a book swap). How about you?

(My phone is being peculiar about media uploads, but there should be a video of Erin at this point – hopefully I can get it in tomorrow!)

Dominic tells us that he finds lots of hope at Glastonbury Festival, tries to bottle it and bring it with him in the rest of his life. This informs the next two poems.

Eve Piper takes to the stage after Dominic asks us to give the same amount of applause as if Donald Trump stepped down from politics. She asks who of us are single (or keeping our options open), segues into her property-marking poem about love bites. It’s fascinating to hear a poem that’s very reminiscent of the Bristol poetry sound in a Mancunian accent. The next piece is one of those letters to someone who’s done something that’s “punishable by poem”. It’s that poem that hooked me when I was researching her for the preview article – Taxi Driver. Articulate rage used in the best way and for reasons that no-one should have to celebrate escape. She reveals that the mental health is so poor for Bristol University that it’s measured, at its worst, in a suicide rate (which she landmarks as a trigger warning) that sounds to me closer to that of the armed forces. The anger here is quieter, close to despair, again the voice of someone who’s escaped, painting a visceral picture that drowns out the Latin beats outside thumping under her words. Class war, gender disparity, and the violence of silence rings through her work. And a love for rave. Lush!

(Again with the video upload fail – apologies!)

Tony Walsh takes to the stage after a heartfelt and passionate intro from Dominic, and gets us happy and cheering with a cheerful celebration of festival life (adapted from a Kendal Calling poem) and moves onto a rousing ode to John Peel, Keeping It Peel (I think it might have a longer title…). (And then I have to run out, because the glamour of this job is picking between watching one of your favourite poets or having a wee. I did get to tell John Hegley backstage that his shorts suited him (he was debating with his friend about changing for the stage); I don’t think he heard me.) When I’m back, he’s giving a typically wordplay-rich, rhymetastic ode to the joy of movies… no, it’s about the British arts scene. It’s an anthem to the joy and work and connection that art brings – entertainment, wealth, occupation, culture, representation from the stadium-fillers to the tiniest local open mic or art exhibition. We want to roar along with him: “Witness the richness, we’re poorer without this!” and stand together, as he urges, all artforms together against austerity, not talking about how funding is dividing up between art, health, and education, but we should be taking our rage back to “whoever stole the cake in the first place”. Now it’s a ranting, frantic, magic tribute to glam rock, and how any music can represent and lift up everyone from everywhere, of any background or demographic. And for his mate Dennis from the Strummerville Stage (and for Joe Strummer of course) it’s a Shakespearean sonnet using Clash lyrics! I’ve don’t think I’ve ever heard a more dynamic sonnet; I’d honestly forgotten it was that form until the final couplet. His final poem is quieter, and yet as anthemic as anything that’s gone before, reminding us that we’re all love, all connected, all divine. We can make it better, we can make it better, we can make it better… And after that set (hell, after even one of those poems), we can believe it!

(Another video missing here – ah, Glastonbury!)

Headliner John Hegley takes to the stage with typical diffidence, a ukelele with a smiling face built in, and what looks like a knitted potato with an orange bobble hat. On second glance it might be a hamster. We are instructed to sing “Dancing!” at the right point. We are then further instructed to sing it correctly (rising note on the second syllable). “Enough of the fun – now for some poetry.” Riddles (some with rhyming clues, others without) are shared with us. It’s hard to say whether he looks more disappointed when we get it right or wrong (the final one – depression – is guessed at by one wit as “Boris Johnson”, to a wry dismissal). Every single one of these pieces demands audience participation of some kind, and it’s picked up with increasing enthusiasm and deftness, just in time for Martin to join him with a guitar and a tale of how we should all be helpful, like Martin.

When he says snail instead of slug and we pitch in with the salute to the snail he namechecks a delighted Tony Walsh and tells us that “we must fail with aplomb”. There’s plenty more chances to fail in the many (including new) gestures to accompany Guillemot, and in picking a translator to turn his short story into English. Nicky steps up to the plate gloriously, and we see Mr. Hegley smile for the first time, frankly flirtatiously. In the course of finding an interpreter, I spot Baden (namechecked by Mr. Hegley) from my first days of poetry in Northampton. The world of poetry is ridiculously small. After a couple of lovely, deceptive wee poems where we’re invited to fill in the rhyme (except sometimes it’s not a rhyme, or it is, against expectation – I’ve never enjoyed being persistently wrongfooted so much!

Finally, for crowd favourite Luton Bungalow, we join in happily in our sections – it’s such a lovely, warm time, and… wait, it’s only the final piece if we don’t ask them back for a spontaneously prepared encore! Martin and John leave, returning to a rapturous standing ovation (from those of us easily able to rise!) to give an actually spontaneous rendition of Spectacles as requested by an audience member, and then one which name I missed in all the fun of a five section chorus about different types of birds. The words of the verses form a sober, loving meditation on death and the meaning of life, family, legacy, and connection, and a wonderful end to a gorgeous set that fled by too fast.

(For some reason, my phone won’t let me upload photos and videos of Mr. Hegley. I’ll try again tomorrow!)

Interview with Erin Fornoff

We sent interview forms out to our artists, and we’ll be sharing their stories here on the blog. Next up:

Erin Fornoff by Scott Tyrrell

Erin Fornoff by Scott Tyrrell

Your Name

Erin Fornoff

Website

https://www.erinfornoff.com

Twitter handle

@jarsofshine

Instagram handle

@erinfornoff

Video

Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/pg/ErinFornoffWriter

How did you get into poetry/ spoken word?

I moved to Ireland from the US and had the loneliest year of my life — starting writing almost as a way to talk to myself, and then my first friends were writers and performers. Being far away allowed me to try something new.

Who are your influences/ idols?

Saul Williams, George Saunders, Kate Tempest, Colm Keegan, Cee-Lo Green

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about your work?

I use poetry as a way to figure stuff out.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in spoken word/ performance poetry?

Memorize stuff and don’t ever read off your phone in front of an audience.

Who are you looking forward to seeing/ what are you looking forward to doing at the Festival?

Kate Tempest, Hozier, Lauryn Hill, going into the underground speakeasy place in the woods, performing in a gang with the other poets.

Have you been to Glastonbury Festival before?

Yes

What’s your stand-out memory of the Festival?

Roving around the festival with the poets, performing in teepees and tree houses, caves and lean-tos, fields and bars all weekend-the absolute best bit. Also I made friends with Hollie McNish within the first 5 minutes of arriving and we’ve been pals for 6 years now. Also, as I was heading to the shower, Debris Stevenson and Koko Brown telling me that someone with hair as curly as mine should wash it with conditioner instead of shampoo, a piece of advice which changed my (hair) life forever.

What’s the one thing you simply must bring with you to the Festival?

Costumes and outfits

What advice would you give someone visiting the Festival for the first time?

Good lord, bring an air mattress.

Have you performed at Glastonbury Poetry&Words before?

Yes

What’s your standout memory of performing at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage?

Saying ’Hellooooooo Glastonbury’ then making myself laugh more than was really called for.

What advice would you give someone performing here for the first time?

Work on your pre- and post-poem banter

What words would you use to describe your work/ your act?

poetry, performance poetry, spoken word, live literature

What do you like best about doing whatever you call whatever it is that you do on stages?

Telling stories

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

My book is called Hymn to the Reckless and pamphlet is Folk Heroes!


You can see Erin Fornoff at 16:35-17:00 Friday; 17:10-17:35 Saturday at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage. Read our previous article about her here.

Erin Fornoff

Introducing: Erin Fornoff

Erin-Aug-2017-7197.jpg
Back to perform with us is Erin Fornoff, 16:35-17:00 Friday; 17:10-17:35 Saturday . If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Erin Fornoff is a ‘story-telling poet’ hailing from the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and a new Irish citizen. She has performed her poetry twice at Glastonbury and at dozens of festivals across the UK and Ireland, and opened for two Irish tours with Hollie McNish. Her first full poetry book, published by Dedalus Press, came out in October 2017 and was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for best first collection in Ireland, and her chapbook ‘Folk Heroes’ came out with Stewed Rhubarb Press in 2015. She has featured on BBC3 The Verb, at Hozier and James Taylor concerts, and in a years-long collaboration with street artist Joe Caslin as well as commissions for numerous charities and causes. Her poems have been included in Best New English and Irish Poets 2016, won the StAnza Digital Slam, and have been commissioned by RTE on the theme of ‘cultural revitalization of Ireland’ for national broadcast and live performance at Dublin Castle. Her poem ‘Hymn to the Reckless’ featured on posters and curriculum nationwide for Ireland’s National Poetry Day. She was co-founder and programme director of Lingo, Ireland’s first ever spoken word festival. Her video poem ‘Home’ was featured in film festivals around the world and won its category at Berlin Underground Film Festival in 2019. In her other life she runs a nonprofit and worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign.”

Fay’s words:

I keep listening to Erin Fornoff’s “Home” like I can’t help myself. She’s absolutely captured what it means to live far from where you’re from and, while I am technically physically closer to my family in South Wales than she is to hers in North Carolina, hiraeth is hiraeth, and that mingled guilt and stretched-heart feeling with the knowledge that you’re truly home in your new place while retaining another far away is so beautifully expressed I want to press it in a book. She has a real talent for capturing family and the liquid nature of relationships and belonging, awkwardness nestling alongside familiarity in a flow of complex language delivered so simply and sincerely it’s like being read a story by your favourite aunt. I may have got a bit immersed; do excuse me… Anyway, I really want to experience this live, and luckily I soon will!

(Erin also reached out to offer advice and support for this blogging role, which she’s done herself before, and I was unspeakably grateful for that – thanks so much!)

Sneak preview: