31st March 2016, The Swan Hotel, 1 Church Street, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1LN
It's been going on for years, the peculiar flow of synchronicity at Words & Ears, and Thursday's event was no exception, with work from our two guest poets and the hugely talented roomful of open mic-ers centring on two key issues - sex and death.
Martin Malone got us off to a good start on the former topic, with Cur, the title poem of his collection published by Shoestring last year, then on to more from his pamphlet Prodigals, just out from Middlesbrough-based The Black Light Engine Room. There were moving poems about shaving his mother's head when she was being treated for cancer, and about his father, the "unknown younger man" who "came back" in his time of grace between heart attacks. If further evidence of virtuosity were needed, we switched, via a quick round of 1970s wrestling, to a darker second half and his newer work: responses to The Great War, including prose poems with ghost echoes of lines from familiar WWI poetry, and all finding new ground away from the trap of the 'troublingly aestheticised' trend in modern WWI poetry.
Bringing with her striking examples of photographic work by her collaborator Carlos Ordonez, Caroline Heaton read from her first pamphlet, The Bone House, including memorable poems based on Ordonez's sequence of images from a disused prison, "where measurement trips/ a man,/ reduces him/ to inhuman/ dimensions." We also visited the complex mediaeval love story of Heloise and Abelard, and from there went, via a small ash tree, to work commissioned by musician Malcolm Hill.
The standard of open mic contributions at Words & Ears rises ever higher, and the roomful of talent on this occasion was tremendous. Thanks to all for their contributions. Stephen Boyce's poem, in French and English versions, about the Paris attacks last November was particularly powerful in its simplicity, but there was humour too - Andy Fawthrop on the subject of extreme tidiness, and Josephine Corcoran on contributors' notes to editors being especially memorable.