BEYOND WORDS is a local poetry… and more… venue which every month invites a celebrated poet and also encourages new writers to brave an audience.
We started it up after Caroline Vero and I met in a poetry workshop and, discovering she lived not far from me in south London, I would give her a lift home and then take her along to one of the nearest reading venues which was, nevertheless, in central London. This particular one was “Lumen” in Tavistock Place, though I also been along to evenings at The Poetry Cafe in Betterton Street, Covent Garden and had tentatively read my own poetry there.
Our paths diverged for a while when I had to spend the best part of a year out of London but a Christmas email from Caroline soon led to a coffee house meeting in January. Caroline had begun hosting some of the Lumen evenings and had ideas about starting a regular monthly event in the Dulwich/Gipsy Hill/Crystal Palace area. She had even called on a pub landlord, viewed a back room and thought “Beyond Words” a good runner for the nom de guerre.
At that moment I was deeply involved with my local “Save Our Library Campaign” which was to close in March, funding having been entirely withdrawn by one of the funding councils – the marvellous Upper Norwood Joint Library folks – but I cared as passionately about promoting the written word and writers, especially poetry and poets, directly, and so began weekly meetings which have become a joy to both of us.
Caroline had kind offers from poet RUTH O’CALLAGHAN, who runs Lumen and local poet PETER EBSWORTH who runs “SOUTH BANK POETRY” to be our headline poets for March and April and we feel very fortunate that RODDY LUMSDEN and CLARE POLLARD agreed to read in May and June, so by February the first half year was almost in place.
During our initial meetings, we had discussed at some length, our wishes to support and encourage newer voices in an ambiance that was warm and welcoming, knowing all too well that it can seem intimidating “putting oneself up there”. Some exciting new poets have also told us how self-conscious they are and that it can be a bit of a battle to write and then read publicly at all. We decided that an “open-mic” would initially give them a forum and us the opportunity to hear and encourage in an inclusive way and from amongst them, we hoped to later showcase less established poets, writers, musicians and many who work and perform.
We were keeping very much in mind that we wanted to embrace music, film and the other arts too.
We opened March 6 at THE GIPSY HILL TAVERN in what we thought would be a small way and were surprised and pleased to have standing room only.
In February while attending a Library focussed meeting and promoting BEYOND WORDS, I was invited to bring poetry to THE CRYSTAL PALACE FESTIVAL; more about that another time when I also hope to write more about the poets, writers and artists who have helped make our first 6 months a success.
In June following our Festival appearance showcasing many new faces, we talked about how we might expand our activities and evolved a workshop and AUTUMN TALKS programme.
Just now though, I want to tell you about the marvellous SIMON BARRACLOUGH who is appearing 30 October as part of the Autumn Talks.
Simon won the London Writers’ Competition in 2000 and is described by Clive James as writing poems “with the unmistakeable stamp of a vision asserting itself through vocabulary” and as “standing out even among the stand-outs”. Simon’s vision is wide and deep but delivered in a way that is irresistible and un-put-downable. He is currently writing about the Sun for a new collection but has given us tantalising tastes in his second full collection Neptune Blue (Salt 2011). In ‘Venus’ he begins: “The Discovery Channel tells me/you’d be hell on earth.” and ends “You turn your back on us, slow to blame, slower to forgive.”
The conversational start had me eating up the lines and then, again and again to savour them, as the planet poem spun its magic to become one with the Venus of myth and life and left me reflecting on who she is “slow to blame and slower to forgive”. Can’t wait for the new collection.
There is so much good to say about Simon, but I will be selective. Among his widening repertoire of creative work, Simon embraces film, music and rich collaborations. We are really delighted he has agreed to come to South London and perform a rare one-man version of his acclaimed collaborative poetry project Psycho Poetica. Twelve poets created a ‘faithful distortion’ of Hitchcock’s classic thriller, accompanied by an original musical score by Oli Barrett. Simon will talk about how the project came into being and how he wrote his Psycho poem. Psycho Poetica the anthology is released by Sidekick Books in October.
“BEYOND WORDS” does more at The Gipsy Hill Tavern
‘PSYCHO’ POETICA’ presented by prize-winning poet Simon Barraclough, on 30 October
7.30pm prompt. £8/5 (includes nibbles)
For Beyond Words full event listings please click here: Beyond Words.