Commentary by Norman Hadley
A good poetry reading should leave you feeling as if you’ve been hurled through a balsa-wood door, brushing a dandruff of splinters from bruised shoulders on the sprawling floor of a strange new room.
I mention this because there was a moment during Nick Pemberton’s reading at the Brewery last week that achieved that rare level of impact.
I’d moseyed along to read some of my own poems at the monthly Open Mic event, corralled by the irrepressible (though who the hell would want to oppress her?) Ann Wilson. In fact, gentle reader, Ann was even fuller of beans than normal, so we were treated to some quality, ebullient hosting. There was a modestly-sized but highly-attentive audience and the Brewery is a great venue, with squashy sofas and a convivial ambience.
Ann read some of her recent one-a-day poems (which sound a bit like Pills That Are Good For You) rather modishly from her iPhone. And there was an excellent poet called Margaret White who read engagingly and unprompted on, among other things, witches. But it was mainly me and Nick playing tag with the mic.
Nick’s performing style was pretty anarchic, with much shuffling of papers and the occasional urgent need for sellotape as running repair for his glasses. There was an unhurried, discursive air to many of the pieces and even an eccentric a cappela rendition of Captain Beefheart.
But it was his piece on the Cumbrian floods that impressed most. Here was a man taking an idea and wringing every last drop of human emotion from it, until he had inextricably woven together the drowning of PC Bill Barker, the camaraderie between rain-sodden neighbours and the need for unity between nations.
He talked about a hand emerging from the torrent, reaching for another hand but closing only on darkness and rain. And that was the moment when a room full of people were hurtled sideways into a different space.
Which is, perhaps, what poetry is for.
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