-Reviewed by James Webster-
Sage and Time is quickly becoming my favourite poetry event in London. Run every fourth Wednesday of the month at the Charterhouse bar in the Barbican, it’s organised by the incomparable Anna LeDoesPoetry and features some truly accomplished poets. The format is fun and not too heavy, mixing the open mic slots in with the featured poets punctuated each of the three halves, which, while mathematically dodgy, gives a very laid back and enjoyable atmosphere. The atmosphere is truly lovely, the featured performers seem so happy to be there and provide much encouragement for the open mic’ers. You get the impression that most of the poets know each other and after attending only two of the events I’ve started to feel like I’m getting to know them too, and they are a welcoming bunch, making Sage and Time a really nurturing environment for aspiring poets.
• Host duties were split this month between Anna LeDoesPoetry and Will Stopha and they struck a neat balance, Will’s warmth and occasionally bumbling charm, and Anna’s poise, humour and wit, both were quick with a joke and even quicker with words of encouragement for their poets.
• Anna LeDoesPoetry’s poem ‘My Poetic Blend’, in the form of a recipe for her own brand of verse, teemed with lush language, its tone exotic, sultry and comforting. Her performance was a joy, all teasing and inviting at the same time, occasionally sizzling with energy. Together the two hosts set the tone for a hugely enjoyable evening.
The Open Mic
Open Mic’s are often hit and miss, but my experience of Sage and Time has been an overwhelming majority of hits. The quality of poetry is almost universally high and a huge variety of styles, subjects and forms are welcomed.
• Elizabeth Darcy Jones (the nation’s unofficial ‘Tea Poet’) and Lisa Handy were the highlight for me with a poetic exchange, starting with Lisa’s ‘Verbal Assault is Still a Form of Assault’, we then had Elizabeth’s response and Lisa’s response to said response. It was a dynamic dialogue between the two poets, Lisa’s raw and visceral language was fired out like a rattling machinegun. It gives you a sense of a natural disaster of an insult, the language fills you up and makes your skin itch at the sound of insults that we didn’t receive. It’s abuse dissected around verbal gymnastics and it’s fantastic and near-frightening.
• Elizabeth’s response blended well, referencing Lisa’s verbal violence, but mixing it into her warm and malty poem. It was a loving and caring offering, full of respect and empathy for Lisa’s work. It shared its co-feeling with the audience, as if we all were sharing our feelings over a cup of lyrical tea.
• Lisa’s poem closed the dialogue, again the words tumbled out, but this time they built on each other and on Elizabeth’s, reinforcing the respect and continuing creativity of the two of them. As Anna put it, being inspired by another poet is the ‘highest accolade’ and these two piled the accolades on each other.
• ‘Angry’ Sam Berkson was another highlight; his poems of urban sprawl blend streams of colloquialisms with a simple elegance. His poems push your perceptions of both places and people, doing what all truly excellent poetry should do: make you see the world in a different light. Plus he rhymed ‘metropolis’ with ‘oesophagus’, what’s not to like? Plus he’s one of the charming people who run Hammer and Tongue in Camden and Hackney.
• The Wizard of Skill was a strange, but enjoyable addition, his ‘freaky delivery’, as Will put it, was well received by most, though I found it a little smug and disengaging. It was funny, with confident delivery and a little social commentary, but was mostly a fluff piece.
• Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson sums up one of the things that makes performance poetry great for me: political engagement. His inversion of Martin Niemöller’s “First They Came” was a statement of political intent, a powerful call to arms for the Saturday 26th demo in London. ‘When they came for the students, I stood up because I had an education/ When they came for those with disabilities, I stoop up because I could.” His other poems were equally strong and socially engaged, dealing with youth culture from different perspectives. He doesn’t pass judgment, but he does make you think.
• EP or Ed Parshotam was the last highlight I’ll mention, his improvised rap referenced most of the other poets in the room and summed up a truly inclusive and entertaining evening. He and Elizabeth Darcy Jones can both be seen at The Tea Box on the 8th of April by the way.
Amy Acre and Peter Hayhoe were our fabulous features this month.
• Peter Hayhoe mixes comedy and substance in his poetry in a way to be envied. He’s not content to just make people laugh, he crafts geekery and amusing imagery with a message. Sometimes the message is just ‘don’t spend what little money you have left eating a steak on your own’, in other poems it’s the dangers of over-thinking your relationship, where his pace and overlapping rhyme gave a sense of being bogged down in itself that really brought the point home.
• Amy Acre is such fun. She makes graceful, powerful performance seem effortless. Her poems mostly stuck to her musings on relationships, but those musings still had a range, going from slick double entendre that still manages to be sweet (and how apparently you should never trust a man with perfect teeth) to a sensual awakening of feelings for a waitress in a café (with a shot taken at Katy Perry that made me very happy). But the set piece of her set was a sexual fairytale set to a backing track from The Chemical Brothers. It was funny, rude, sweet and well phrased, a kind of BDSM love story. The backing track gave it an extra dimension, setting a dark rhythmical tone and adding a nice sense of urgency.