Monday, April 28, 2008

'Night Blue Fruit' on the Guardian Unlimited

Some years ago, I first came into contact with performance poetry at a Coventry 'open mic' night called Night Blue Fruit. It took place monthly at a venue called the Tin Angel on Medieval Spon Street, a tiny, smoky and disreputable bar on a street corner, where members of the public wandered in and out at intervals, gloriously inebriated but happy to listen to a poem or two. (Or not happy, in which case they would be cheerfully ushered out again.)

While we read our poems to a crowded room, in would stagger women on hen nights doing the conga, pub-crawlers, drunken revellers in various states of undress, bearded ancient mariners, lovelorn musicians, poet-environmentalists with bodhrans.

It was not unknown for such visitors to suddenly declare they loved me while I was in the middle of a poem; once, a very drunk woman offered to kiss me and take me home. She was removed shortly afterwards.

As a homage to this marvellous and carnivalesque place, this haven for poets and performers of all kinds, I rushed home one night in a daze of enthusiasm and wrote a long poem in bouncing Skeltonics entitled "Night Blue Fruit at the Tin Angel".

I loved writing it and I loved performing it even more, especially on home ground. The roar of applause the poem received at its virgin reading at the Tin Angel is indescribable. For some months it adorned the walls there, parts of it were used on posters advertising the event, and it was even published in the local lit-mag, Avocado, which was often distributed at the open mic.

And now it's Poem of the Week on the Guardian Unlimited book blogs, courtesy of poet Carol Rumens. This is what she had to say today about the poem, and also about my new version of 'The Wanderer':

- 'While less coarse and explicit than the tale of the malodorous ale-wife that inspired it, "Night Blue Fruit at the Tin Angel" still has plenty of verbal punch. Skelton probably owed his style to mediaeval Latin poetry, but his work also recalls the vitality of Anglo-Saxon alliterative meter. The latter is clearly a fruitful influence for Holland. Her forthcoming collection, Camper Van Blues (to be published by Salt in October) has as its centre-piece a strong, female-perspective version of the Old English poem, "The Wanderer." The versification is musical, the occasional alliteration delicately shaded in. It never sounds forced.' -

Carol Rumens on the Guardian book blogs' Poem of the Week (April 28th 2008)

Night Blue Fruit is sadly no longer at the Tin Angel, but at the Liquid Cafe Bar in the City Arcade, Coventry. It's on this Thursday evening from 8pm, in fact, for those interested in a superb and intimate night of live poetry, spoken word and occasionally music.

Here's the original 'Night Blue Fruit at the Tin Angel' post, where I discuss the actual writing of the poem, and its inspiration.


fmk said...

So it sounds like I was close-ish with my notion of the Tin Angel. But what's the new place like?

Bo said...

Congrats!!! This is great news!

Bo said...

What a sadly horrible series of comments though.

Jane Holland said...

fmk, the new place is friendly and intimate, and we are very pleased to have got it.

Acceptable venues for live poetry in Coventry which also serve alcohol are few and far between, you know what I'm saying? ;)

Bo, I know. What can I tell you? I said elsewhere that the Guardian Unlimited is like a tank full of crocodiles ... or whatever it was I said. It can be very painful at times. But c'est la vie. Besides, you know my chart, you know my basic disposition. Home from home, really. Mother's milk!

Steven Waling said...

I have to say that I thought a lot of the bloggers were reading the poem wrongly from the start. They were looking for some kind of "depth" in what is obviously an entertainment, a performance poem, a comic exuberance. It's like trying to eat a full meal using only ice-cream. Or maybe apple pie & custard - it's not that light!

It's not the best poem in Boudicca & Co, but it's fun and light and enjoyable. I take Billy Mill's point about there being other ways of doing performance; but again that's making a serious piece out of something that ain't intended to be serious.

Bo said...

Christ! It goes on. Poets seem to be even worse than Pagans!

Jane Holland said...

I like that, Bo. It could almost be a replacement for 'Blessed Be'. 'Never a Poet nor a Pagan Be.'

They do like to jaw on, don't they? Good old Guardian Unlimited. Last bastion of the terminally loquacious. Last night I was a bit ... well, I had to come offline for a while, and that's as serious as it gets ... but now, I'm rather amused by it all.

The whole affair reminds me of that great line I'm always quoting from the Birdcage (modern film version with Robin Williams): 'It's like riding a psychotic horse toward a burning stable!'

Happy days.

Jane Holland said...

Oh, and hi Steve! Haven't seen you much on the forum recently. You're not actually writing instead, are you?

I can see I shall have to do some work soon. Instead of all this blogging nonsense ...