Michael McEntee’s Big Comfy Bookshop is situated in FarGo Village (a creative space in Coventry city) and hosts our Fire & Dust poetry open mic every month. This bookshop-cum-café held its first literary festival last weekend, for which HCE/ Silhouette Press co-organised a poetry event on the Sunday. Attendance was solid: West Midlands poets came to share their performances, and lovers of literature flocked inside to enjoy them.
We kicked off the afternoon with director of Silhouette Press, Adam Steiner, who had returned to Coventry from London to host the event. It was a rare recital of his own work we were treated to, as he frequently side-steps writer’s ego at gigs to make time for fellow poets. Check out the Disappear Here project – a series of collaborative poetry films – Adam has recently launched.
Stepping up to the mic after Adam, Russ Berry. A man of many talents, Russ is not only a regular poet at Fire & Dust but also makes appearances at other local open mics as a musician. His poems told stories of morning horniness and a fast-paced auction of musical history. Andrea Mbaurishimana, another of our F & D regulars, followed after Russ, and her three brand new poems were well-received by the crowd. A different poem by Andrea, ‘The Tin Woman’, has just been published in the Transition issue of HCE.
We had poetry from the headliner of September’s Fire & Dust, Aysar Ghassan, who raised a few laughs with his deliberately deadpan portrayals of the personas we try on when chasing after love. Then the last of our regulars were Emily Woodruff and Jason Snow, the rapping duo who go by the stage name MCUltra. They hit us with ‘Yosemite’ (a.k.a ‘Sequoiadendron giganteum’), a brand new track – this might be on their upcoming mixtape, or maybe they tailored the swearword-free, family-friendly verse just for the festival. Watch this space to find out…
Making her debut Fire & Dust appearance was Emilie Lauren Jones, winner of the 2010 Coventry Words Poetry competition. She related to us compassionate tales of rescue missions to save flies from webs and a pupil daydreaming through her maths lessons.
To add variation, poet George Ttoouli sampled for us a few mini flash fiction pieces from Joy Williams’ collection ‘Ninety-Nine Stories of God’ (one, about a museum, was only a sentence long!), before giving us a taste of his own ecopoetic style.
Finally, Roy McFarlane (former Birmingham poet laureate) gave a moving, energetic headline performance. I witnessed him engage the audience through eye-contact, gestures and interactions in-between the lines of his poems. But, most of all, he engaged us with his words.
Roy is not afraid to be vulnerable on-stage, touching upon subject matter close to his heart and ultimately mingling the personal with the universal. His poetry reflects on a range of relatable matters, including the sought-out wisdom of community elders; whether a comforting familial dish is really a cure-for-all-ills; what might cause a man to cry; the intimacy of watching a woman peel off her tights; and the sadness of losing his mother to a battle with cancer.
He is also a lovely, friendly bloke, and stayed after the reading to sign copies of his book ‘Beginning With Your last Breath’ for festival-goers.
I think it’s safe to say our segment of the Big Comfy Lit Fest was successful, featuring a great mix of poets and enjoyed by all. Here’s looking forward to 2017’s festival! In the meantime, to get your dose of live poetry, please join us next month for Fire & Dust on October 6th.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 17th: MCUltra will be doing a set at Ego Arts’ Live and Eclectic. Doors open 7.30 PM.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 6th: You can catch Roy again at the Birmingham Lit Festival, as part of the National Poetry Day Gala.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 15th: Emilie Lauren Jones will be back at the Big Comfy Bookshop, for readings and book signings.