BLOG Katya Johnson

NWR Issue 110

Words & Words & Words, December, Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Declaration of Interest: Katya Johnson is a blogger in residence for New Welsh Review, a contributor to the event, and also herself took part in its open mic slot

On 3 December, audiences gathered in Aberystwyth Art Centre to attend the second Words & Words & Words event of this year. The evening hosted an eclectic programme of spoken word and multi-media poetry performances, featuring sets from author Richard Marggraf Turley, visual poet John Morgan and film and poetry collaborations from New Welsh Review’s multimedia programme.

There was a much stronger emphasis on inter-disciplinary showcases in this second event, underscoring organiser Mary Jacob’s interest in innovative and experimental poetry practice. Two of the longer scheduled performances included a modernist, what was termed a Gelynion/Enemies-style set of fragmented verse performed by Mary Jacob and Nia Davies, editor of Poetry Wales. In this poetry duet, both women created a surrealist soundscape of words spoken through microphones at different decibel pitches like telephone beeps. The effect of this overlay of words deconstructed into sounds and harmonics was playful and provocative.

This collaborative work set the tone for many of the performances in the first and second half, especially video-poetry projects. One of the most memorable screenings featured a ‘film-poem’, ‘At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’ by Alys Conran (part of the poetry video showcase Goddesses & Anti-heroines) made by New Welsh Review paid interns Jess Rose and Emma Musty, which explored the spaces and ‘exclusion zones’ of a biomorphic sculpture found in the grounds of Aberystwyth University. The spatial zones of the sculpture were dramatised by the movements of a local dancer who used her body to instigate an exploration of the sculpture’s meaning through a tactile survey of its shapes, hollows and cavities.

Bridging the divide between more conventional readings and inter-disciplinary poetic performances, the visual poet John Morgan was an outstanding opening act. His readings of ‘land writing’ inspired by the landscapes of Snowdonia were highly impressive and beautifully crafted responses to Snowdonian ‘myths’. Visually, the arrangement of the words on the page were manipulated to evoke the shapes, contours and colour palette of the mountain ranges and landscapes they represented. Morgan’s concrete poetry formed a strong association in my mind with the word-sculptures of the American land art practitioner and poet Robert Smithson.

Moving away from the experimental, the poetic offerings of Professor Richard Marggraf Turley and Ashley Wakefield presented a vivid contrast to preceding readings, with two historically situated pieces. Richard Maggraf Turley read extracts from his new novel The Cunning House published this year, which evoked the personality of spirited genius and printer William Blake in the context of a nineteenth-century murder mystery. Ashley Wakefield paid homage to New Welsh Review’s exclusively female cast in the Goddesses & Anti-heroines screened in the first half, most especially the strong chorus of female voices performing Polly Atkin’s poem ‘Free Night’. Ashely read extracts from her forthcoming poetry collection, a repurposing of the Judith and Holofernes myth. Finally, the resonance of a single 100-word poem by Damian Gorman, delivered without either paper script or film projection, reminded the audience of poetry’s power to evoke the most concrete of pictures simply with words.

On the whole, the second Words & Words & Words event lived up to, though thoroughly redefined the terms of the proceeding one. If you are interested in bagging one of the open mic slots for the next event in January, arrive at the Arts Centre performance studio foyer at 6.30pm to sign up with Mary Jacob.

Words & Words & Words took place on 3 December at Aberystwyth Arts Centre performance studio.

Katya Johnson is PhD candidate in English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. She has been published by a number of platforms including the Tate Modern and the Daily Express. contributor website

Ali Cocks, photo Jess Rose
Image from Goddesses & Anti-heroines poetry video showcase produced by Jess Rose & Emma Musty, New Welsh Review’s multimedia programme is sponsored by Aberystwyth University.


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