The Birthday Boy, um, Girl, um, Evening.
Regular readers will know I’ve hardly been restrained in my love of Sage & Time. The brainchild of Anna Le and home of the Dirty Hands collective, it has been a welcome mainstay of my spoken word experience and that’s why it was so lovely to attend its 2nd birthday party back in July. The evening had an uplifting celebratory feel that was reinforced by the various poems from both the regular and newer performers and it was all totally lovely.
No party’s complete without an excellent host …
The evening was hosted by the confident and fiercely warm Kat Francois, who was always quick to quip and jest with the audience. She focused us into rapt silence before the performances, and provoked rapturous applause after them; you can really see how her experience as a stand-up comic has honed her crowd-handling skills. Francois kicked things off with a machine-gun rata-tat of words explaining why she performs. It was a storm of a poem, stressing the importance of poetry, claiming her place on the stage and asserting her ownership of words. And ‘I Love Being a Woman’ was amazing fun, full of sing-song joy, sensual language, silly orgasm noises, and a perceptive take on the give-and-take of relationships (though it was a bit odd that a poem with that title was all about her relationship with a man). Top stuff.
The party’s welcome guests – highlights of the Open Mic
- Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson, S&T regular, kicked off the open mic with a quick and powerful flash of a poem on Usain Bolt, before giving us an incredibly sweet take on his youthful gawkish self’s inability to dance.
- Elaine O’Neil then showed off her way with words with ‘Light Rail’. I really enjoyed how she penciled in the potential of the places railways can take you to, and she took us on a witty and intelligent journey from hope to capitalism.
- The Wizard of Skill gave his usual madcap performance, full of amusing repetition and imaginative phrasing. Though, some might say that the repetition and disparate references that characterise his offbeat style sacrifices structure and progression.
- Jethro read the “Cry Havoc” speech from Julius Caesar. He was not the most convincing Mark Antony and I far prefer it when he reads his own material.
- Jazz Man John’s ‘Advice to Young Poets’ was a short piece on classic poets that was nicely witty (if a bit off-kilter).
- Anna Em’s ‘Chain Letter’ was impressively haunting, had some good natural and supernatural imagery and some killer lines like “he counts his lost days on a calendar of broken dreams”.
- Errol McGlashen’s ‘One Drop’ (inspired by Stephen Lawrence) was full of powerful rhythm, ranging across civil rights history to a brutal depiction of Lawrence’s death. It was powerful and chilling (and occasionally very funny).
- Jill Abram performed ‘I have Forgotten my Father’, an endearingly nostalgic piece that was full of touchingly tiny remembered details that captured the miracle-magic that parents can make for their children.
- Achilles read ‘My Finger’, an amusing take on technology making fingers obsolete that elicited ripples of laughter from the audience.
- Richard Watkins had some wonderfully tinkly sing-song language in his piece that was a celebration of the mineral world and send-up of the material world. The point was a bit hackneyed, but it worked.
- Tim Wells gave two poems, the first a witty ‘love poem to anger’, while the second was dedicated to girls his daughter’s age who date hipsters with “tight trousers, a weak moustache and pox” and was super-bleak, but much fun.
- Koel Mukherjee’s ‘Love Poem to the Universe’ was a stunning mix of pure beauty and ultimate whimsy. Having started performing at S&T only recently, she had clearly grown massively in confidence to reinforce her heady talent with words.
- Edward Unique’s piece ‘The Rainforests’ came together really well, mixing images together into a cohesive whole he sometimes struggles to achieve with his plurality of ideas.
The guests of honour – Features
- Anna Le performed two pieces herself, the first ‘What is it?’ was an evocative and endearing description of walking into an open mic for the first time and segueing on to sum up some of the lovely things about Sage & Time (“S&T loves the jokes, but doesn’t need the happy every after”). And her ‘All the While’ was especially heartfelt on the night, its verse reaching out to you, the cadences rising and dropping just as you think it’s going to peak.
- Lettie McKie: Lettie’s first poem was a humorous take on getting groped on the tube, which hilariously summed up a familiar feeling, but didn’t seem to offer any new/interesting perspective. That said, her performance (complete with amped-up middle class voice) was top notch.
- While her second was a poem of two halves, the first essentially a very well constructed list of minor annoyances and first world problems that combined to blow each other out of all proportion. While the over the top hatred of life was fun, it didn’t really speak to me and felt a bit trite. The second half, however, was a lovely, soft and tender piece on the joy of words, friends and people’s differences and segued charmingly into congratulations for Sage & Time’s 2nd Birthday.
- Keith Jarrett is a charming performer. Coupling intense and lush poetry with a winning stage presence, he started with an awesome piece made entirely of references to the previous performer’s poems that was a lovely and inclusive way to start his set. He also performed a fun, lyrical and accessible poem that was great on how the young construct their sense of selves and sense of ‘cool’ and also turned into a surprisingly good sing-a-long. It was rich with nostalgia and warmth and it really invited the audience into his reminisces.
- Amy Acre continued the trend of poems celebrating Sage & Time with an immensely fun rap to introduce herself to the stage. She followed up with ‘Run’, a poem apparently inspired by a woman she met travelling in Nepal. Now … I’m usually wary of this kind of introduction, as far too often it leads solely to a vacuous poem that either reduces the locations talked of to mere exoticism or exposes nothing but the poet’s own privilege. However, this piece was a beautifully simple and incredibly powerful poem on gender disparity and the dangers of tradition for tradition’s sake that actually acknowledged the speaker’s own privilege along the way. Gorgeous stuff.
- James Webster performed “Flat-Pack Lover”, his contribution to the Penning Perfumes collection of poetry inspired by different scents. The imagery was a rich, sensual, slightly quirky jumble, describing a personified piece of furniture, a warm, inviting, pinewood-and-brass lover. This was followed by a lovely tribute rooted in the there-and-then – “The House of Sage and Time” imagined Sage & Time as a home, the walls made of words that you could spend a hundred years reading, the spice cupboard full of sage, and the doors only open to those with “words in their hearts and fire on their tongues” – an electrifying statement of welcome and intent for anybody who loves poetry.
- Peter Hayhoe … how do I even describe the ridiculous genius of his poem? He performed a poem that was pretty much his entire life in poetry form (all the way up to that very moment) and it was spellbinding. It was filled with geeky nostalgia, teenage doubts and plenty of jokes; a disarmingly honest and adorable performance.
- Maddy Carty finished the night off with an ice-cool set of songs that we both perceptive and entertaining; a real treat for the ears.
Overall this was a warm embrace of an event. An inclusive welcome for the new, a celebration for the regulars, and a damn good party for all involved. While there were some poets I enjoyed more than others, the joy of Sage & Time is how inclusive and supportive it is of everyone and that tells in the ever-improving and enjoyable poetry its regulars perform. And this was such a fun night I’m already excited about the 3rd birthday!