At the far end of the Bluecoat Library, chairs were laid out in a semi-circle and a Hi-Fi system had been set up in preparation for the evening’s Talking Poetry workshop, which was being led by Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director of the Bluecoat, Alex Scott-Samuel of Liverpool Poetry Café and Dave Ward from The Windows Project.
It’s an event which brings both poets and enthusiasts together once a month to listen to and discuss recordings of poetry. Although it does have its regulars who all know one another, there’s a friendly atmosphere and newcomers are made welcome, and so as this was the first time that I had attended, the leader’s of the group made sure that everyone introduced themselves to me before proceedings began.
The evening then kicked off with a female member selecting two John Betjeman poems, Hunter Trials and Seaside Golf, from a CD that she had brought in for us to listen to. Both of them were spoken, set to music from the 1920’s or 1930’s, and were a couple of minutes long each.
Once the second track had finished, there was a brief discussion in which some of the members of the group expressed their thoughts about the recording, and while it was concluded that the music was a little off-putting, as it dragged the listener away from what was being said by the narrator, those who had managed to concentrate on the poems seemed to quite like them.
Next, it was the turn of Alex Scott-Samuel, who picked out a poem by Elizabeth Jennings from a CD which he had downloaded from the internet. We listened to it attentively and when it ended, it was also analysed by the group in the same manner as the previous ones were.
The evening continued in a similar vein and over the course of the next few hours we were treated to a variety of recordings on both vinyl and CD from poets such as Molly Drake, Walt Whitman, and Sylvia Plath. Some of them were just spoken, whilst others were spoken with music to accompany them, and there was even one that was sung.
About three-quarters of the way through the session, someone produced a copy of Lou Reed’s album, The Raven, for us to assess a track from, which I was extremely delighted about and enjoyed listening to, then after that, we heard one by his wife, Laurie Anderson, which I also found quite pleasurable.
The time went very quickly and all too soon it was all over. I stayed behind for about ten minutes to chat with the other members of the group and I also gained an insight into some of the other events that they are involved with at the same time.
It had certainly been unique and very different to any other poetry night that I had ever attended before, and as I had enjoyed it so much, I promised that I would go again on some future occasion when I have the time.
Talking Poetry is a regular event at Bluecoat. You can see what else this venue has to offer here.