BLOG Katya Johnson

NWR Issue 109

Words & Words & Words at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Last week (7 October), Aberystwyth Arts Centre hosted the first of a series of events entitled Words & Words & Words, comprising innovative spoken word and poetry and organised by Mary Jacob. This night complements a number of other established spoken word fixtures on the programme, including Word Distillery and the Short Story Network. Varied, quality literary performances were on offer, including established poets such as Matthew Francis and featured readers from the North Wales International Poetry Festival.

As I entered the dim, snug amphitheatre of the Art Centre’s upstairs performance space, my hands were brimful with white wine and refreshments generously provided at a reception organised by the festival sponsors. Joining a group clustered about a table, I watched as Faber-published poet Matthew Francis kicked off with a reading from his forthcoming book based on folklore of the Mabinogi. The extract that he read was a powerful evocation of this visceral, pre-Christian world; pared-back, succinct and highly controlled in its lyricism. It made me really look forward to publication of his book.

Hot on the heels of Matthew, local poets Eurig Salisbury and Hywel Griffiths alternated voices in a bilingual collaborative exchange. As well as translating a number of the European guest speakers’ poems directly into Welsh, Eurig read a touching poem meditating on the birth of his new child and reflecting on the future of the Welsh language.

The international scope of the evening was signalled by a group of readings from Baltic guest speakers including Jana Putrle Srdić, Kārlis Vērdiņš, Marko Pogačar and Nikola Petković and sponsored by the North Wales International Poetry Festival, Poetry Wales, Literature Across Frontiers and other associations. For me the real stand-outs were Jana Putrle Srdić and Marko Pogačar. Jana is a Slovenian avant-garde poet published by A Midsummer Night’s Press and has had her work translated into twelve languages. On Wednesday she read a number of poems rendering the magical, urban setting of her current home city of Ljubljana. Marko, one of the most well-known of the guest poets, read political prose poetry set in gloomy Eastern European bars. His tall, dark silhouette cut an impressive figure on stage.

However, the evening’s biggest surprise success for me was the quality of the poetry read by the unscheduled, lucky dip ‘open mic’ poets. Many of these poets were local writers, or members of local literary happenings. Taking on diverse subjects that ranged from current affairs to overcoming grief, some of my favourite readings included poetry by Allan Marsden and Caroline Clark, and Mike Danté’s harrowing poem ‘Water Babies’. As the evening stretched on, the muted grunts of approval rippling around the room after each set suggested that I was not the only one enjoying myself.

Though it was a pity that there was not more multimedia or performance-based work [which will be New Welsh Review’s component of Words & Words & Words’ 3 December event in the form of performed readings in a poetry video showcase], it was still a fantastic début for the programme and made me eager for the next one on 3 December. If you are interested in bagging one of the open mic slots, be advised to arrive early for sign-up at 6.30pm. I know I’ll be there.

Katya Johnson is a post-graduate in the Department of English & Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University.

Words & Words & Words takes place bi-monthly in Aberystwth Arts Centre’s performance studio. Its inaugural event was on Wednesday 7 October and its next one is on Thursday 3 December.


       


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