– reviewed by Koel Mukherjee –
Carmina’s Poetry Tease was the launch event for London poet Carmina Masoliver’s poetry pamphlet (also titled Carmina’s Poetry Tease) and a celebration of the end of her MA in Creative Entrepreneurship. It was both performance event and exhibition; the performance element featured Carmina, fellow UEA graduate Catherine Woodward, and acclaimed Brighton poet Rosy Carrick; while the exhibition explored Carmina’s personal relationship with poetry, her incorporation of poetry and visual art, the fluid boundaries between performance poetry and poetry for the page, and her aim to be defined by neither.
Things I loved about this event (there are many):
- Carmina’s hosting. She clearly explained the night’s themes, charmingly introduced each poet, and gave fascinating insights into her own poetry and upcoming projects (plus exhortations to enjoy the cake and wine provided, always a plus).
- The Setup. The venue was set up to reflect the themes of the event; glass cabinets in the entrance displayed poems in the process of forming, while along the walls of the performance space were paintings inspired by or relating to the themes of Carmina’s poetry. It was like being immersed in Carmina’s writing process.
- “Carmina Stores” –the shop area in the corner selling Carmina’s pamphlet, but also badges, bookmarks and t-shirts printed with fragments and snippets of her poetry. Her paintings along the walls were also for sale. An enterprising, clever and lovely way to promote and share poetry (while completely confounding the stereotype that artists aren’t good at marketing themselves).
- The Atmosphere Everything about the space was immaculate, intimate and beautiful. The poetry and painting displays were gently offset by fairy lights, little balloons, colour-co-ordinated furnishings, and even little cakes and wafers in pretty bowls. It was an attractive, warm and inviting space to immerse one’s self in poetry.
Speaking of poetry…
Carmina performed varied pieces: thoughtful musings on poetry itself (the striving to write something meaningful, the self-doubt engendered by the thought of performing), a quirky tribute to a cup of tea, and a Twitter-inspired poem composed of tweets a fridge might write about its contents. And among several pieces incorporating visual elements was the evocative and fragmented “The Hourglass”, inspired by abstract artist Louise Bourgeois, and full of fittingly odd imagery (“My body ticking like a heart, my love straining like tea”).
For me, the standout piece of her set was “Roots”, a lovely affirmation of how roots are more than bloodline and ancestry, but constantly reflected in the little details of one’s life. The piece flowed beautifully, using assonance and the repetition of “my roots are…” to frame images of nature, emotion, and everyday life. The poet’s roots are “in the curl of the sea, the curl of my hair”, in the “red fabric of sex”, and “gravy over everything”.
Carmina has quite a gentle voice, though in her delivery she also projects passion and self-assuredness, a combination that worked well for both the lighter and more serious pieces of the night. At times she was too fast, swallowing up some of the words and feeling of pieces as a result. Overall though, this was a brilliant set of poetry, full of humour, passion, variety and skill.
Catherine Woodward’s poetry was particularly enjoyable for its whimsical characters – such as Phil, star of a hilarious univocalism that used ‘i’ as the only vowel, fending off the wrath of a gin-sipping Big Bird for “living in sin with Big Bird’s sister”. Spot the Dog, laconically attempting a dialogue with the internet (“I am Spot. I know my meme”) was another keeper.
But my favourite of her pieces was completely different: a confessional first-person address to a terminally ill friend, written to express the guilt of feeling unable to visit, and candidly expressing all the things the poet feels unable to say (“I’m sorry that I’ve written a poem instead of coming to see you”). The piece’s conversational bluntness was so very relatable, simply evoking the full gamut of complex emotions we run when faced with death and loss. Incomprehension, impotence, unbearable sadness and the instinct to recoil from it, callous curiosity about the mechanics of illness and death, loneliness, an inability to know what to say, sudden moments of emotional clarity, all animated by a delivery that was carefully measured and matter-of-fact, but barely concealing the grief, fear and shame just beyond.
This wasn’t an easy poem to hear, being so relatable and raw, and it can’t have been easy to perform. But it was both beautifully written and superbly rendered, and I am glad I got to hear it.
I was really excited when I found out that Rosy Carrick was performing, and I was right to be. She was an instantly engaging performer, telling us she writes poetry about things like “pigs, Twixes, trains, wanking and dismembered body parts” – I adore that combination of the funny and unashamedly strange. Her irreverent, deadpan humour was an interesting contrast to the preoccupations of her poetry, which was dark, meaty, urgent and visceral, exploring moments in life, childhood, and relationships through the imagery of bodily flesh and fluids.
The extraordinarily vivid “The Film” explored sexual fixations through their roots in childhood, “that inflammable age”, and a memorable train journey, recounting “the feeling of being slightly soiled” after masturbating in the train bathroom. This piece was wonderful in evoking the kind of personal and intimate weirdness that is unique to each individual’s brain, and is rarely expressed this well. In “Holding Hands”, a scar was strikingly described as “a screaming mouth” – an image I could not get out of my head – while “Heart” was a poignant snapshot of a familiar-yet-twisted relationship.
With its intimate and startling imagery packed into long, exhilarating lines of free-verse, this poetry made me feel like I was tumbling headlong into the thought-soup of the poet’s brain – but a tumbling that was paced smartly, and had a well-constructed end point every time. Extraordinary words from a poet with a unique and fascinating perspective.
A good poetry night can leave you tingling – with enjoyment, but also with inspiration, ideas and an appetite for more poetry. And Carmina’s Poetry Tease left me feeling this way in spades (ask the editor – I sent him an excited text as soon as I got home). The entire night that Carmina conjured for us was beautifully put together, completely professional, and yet still intimate and warm. Masolivier is someone who not only has a lot to say in her poetry, but is passionate about different ways of sharing and exploring it and building a career as an artist. She also has an exceptional feel for the visual, and knows how to put on a great event.
Run a regular night, please!
Editor – a full video of the event is available here on Carmina’s website if you wish to catch this unique event.