When people ask me 'What is poetry?' I often say: 'Poetry is singing with words.' Never has that been more true than with the trio of laureates who make up 'Three the Hard Way.' The influence of Jean Binta Breeze, an original dub-poet, is strong on the show's performance style. Jean is a legendary Caribbean poet and recent MBE, who has long had a second home in Leicester - lucky us. The voices of Alison Dunne, formerly the libraries Book Doctor, and Lydia Towsey, a sometime poet-ghoul, are equally distinctive though and they make a fabulous, gorgeous threesome. But before they gift us their poems together and separately, here comes the anthem of community arts that is the Lyric Lounge.
Today the Lounge is a 'jam-packed day of live-lit, music, film, masterclasses, open-mic spots and family-friendly activities' at Leicester's spanking Curve theatre. This carnival of arts is FREE to all - yes, you heard it right. In these days of Gradgrind and Gove, of banker Culture Ministers and libraries staffed by volunteers, somehow we sneaked in a publicly-funded festival of lyrics, laughter and improvised rhymes. I only caught the tail-end of it but the songs and sets from workshoppees and community groups showed a good time had been had by all amidst the borrowed sofas and curtain swags of the Curve's Lyric Lounge corner. As they warbled their way through laments for Belgrave's fly-over and celebrations of Leicester City's promotion, through poems about broken boilers, red budget boxes and crack cocaine, George Osborne made a few appearances. Delivered off the cuff and scribbled crib-sheets, occasionally a rhyme clunked or a rhythm stumbled - but the energy and exuberance of creativity let loose for a rare day out lifted all. It was witty, husky with passion, ukelele-accompanied and often, as one of Jean's lyrics reminded us, there were moments 'that made you gasp'. I was reminded all over again of the glory days of the original Lyric Lounge five years ago, fronted by the same excellent community poets, musicians and artists.
And finally we were treated to three sassy word-artists in their 'full-flow' - pitch-perfect, swerving seamlessly from an autobiographical mother-daughter poem to a lyric on slavery or Rwanda and on to a rousing chorus of 'I know, me duck, I know/ how this country leaves you broken-hearted;/ the summer's over before it's started ...' And all too soon, it was indeed over. But well worth catching if you spot them on tour at a venue near you.
Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.
Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:
My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
- Leicester, East Midlands
- As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring.