Thursday, 10 October 2013

Being Human

08:00:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , 3 comments
It seems only right that I asked my daughter, Raven, to join me on the blog this week.  She memorised the eponymous poem some time ago but most of it has now been replaced in her head by less useful material such as the periodic table, quotes from Supernatural and unforgettable scenes from fanfiction.  Personally, I think if your name is Poe you're going to write poetry.  Likewise, if your name is Raven you're going to rave, or make a lot of noise, or scare sickly writers.  Something like that.

Raven decided to honour 'he of the macabre symbol' with this poem:


Edgar Allen Poe quoth the word nevermore
Eighty five years before the Second World War
Wed his sickly cousin, who was only thirteen
Then killed off his players like young Usher Madeline.
Renowned world wide as an author workaholic
But also for his tenancy as demon alcoholic.
His image is iconic, as is his facial fur
His hands were always busy with ink or liqueur.
Til his untimely demise put a stop to his quill
Discovered in the early hours of Boston's autumn chill.

And from the words of a long dead poet inspiring a young, new poet to a very short review of something equally wonderful.  Last night David Riley and I drove to Manchester University to see the staging of Neil Astley's incredibly popular poetry collection, Being Human.  Three players took to an economical set to perform a selection of poems from the anthology.  If you want to read what the audiences and critics have said, go here. I don't think the praise goes far enough.  David and I are ruined for poetic performances for the foreseeable future.  Je ne regrette rien.

Being Human: Poetry in Performance is like a concentration of every momentous life event from birth to death, wrapped up in all those quiet moments, the shrieks and the murmurs.  It pulls in love and war, fear and hope and it reminds at every moment what it is to be human, to share this experience of living.  These powerful, rich, poignant, careful poems are embodied by the players so that the emotions are raw and close.  I cried several times.  I cried out of sadness, at the futility of war and harm, I cried at the beauty of the human condition, at the depth of loss and at the empathy which reminds us that we are the same for all our differences.  More than anything else, this performance nourished me to my core.  I can still feel its warmth at my centre.

Put simply, I cannot recommend this highly enough.  This is exactly what poetry in performance should do.  Every word was clear and every image delivered with a simple honesty.  I can honestly say I understood every poem.  One piece, an excerpt from Turkish Poet Edip Cansever's Table, was performed several times with a different emphasis on each occasion.  The poem is about life and what we choose to put on our table.  By performing it with a positive slant, then with an angry attitude and finally as a group performance, an extra dimension was added to that poem which neatly summed up the idea that life is what you make of it.  Both David and I were moved by Doris Kareva's poem, Shape of Time, and its hopeful message of unity.  There wasn't a dull moment in the hour long event.

If you want to see how powerful poetry is.  If you want to know how poetry must be performed.  If you want to know what binds us and why we need each other.  If you are breathing.  You must see this performance.  You'll have to travel a bit further to catch it next but trust me on this, it is absolutely worth the journey. 



Ashley R Lister said...

Fantastic post,

Raven rhymed "thirteen" with "Madeline". I think she and I share the same brilliant approach to rhyme.


Colin Davies said...

Oh how much do I want to see Being Human now I have read this.

And Raven's poem, wonderful.

A post from 2 writers. What a joy (not a question)

Adele said...

Both avid and you are superb writers and powerful performers in your own right so your endorsement of Being Human is a real accolade.

I am so impressed by your exquisite reference that I have added the event to my list of 'Things To Do Before You Die' and I was getting worried that there wasn't much left un-ticked! You have raised my expectations. Thank you for another exquisite blog - I am ecstatic.

PS - swallowed the 'E' page of OED this morning. I like e's for breakfast.