P&P@theQ with Rhys Milsom

P&P@theQ with Rhys Milsom

Sunday 1st November

So after the usual summer break in August and then my time spent at a literary residency in Sweden for three weeks through September into October it felt like an awfully long time since I’d been to Poems and Pints at the Queens. What a wonderful night for a return! We were a small gathering only 22 of us including 12 readers but such awesome quality of performance and content. Exciting new voices and energies from the P&P virgins Colin Hill and Massachusetts’ poet Julia Lewis and none more so than our excellent special guest reader Rhys Milsom from the Rhondda.

Rhys has recently published his debut collection of poetry Amnesia with Onion Custard Publishing and was reading from it during the evening. Rhys is a graduate of the MA Creative Writing programme at University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) and on 26 October 2015 the literary community in Carmarthen welcomed him again. Rhys was very much a part of that community as he casually wandered back and fore to the microphone, never stealing the limelight always modest with his demands upon the ears of the audience and generous to the other collected performers. As the night unfolded he slowly built a performance unveiling a narrative of meaning and form.

In his opening poem The Glass Church he introduced us to a universal concept of loneliness and what we do to try and evict its horror, this he followed up with a very intimate example of “another face of regret in a world of collectors” but very firmly positioned us in a particular place, with the evening’s first reference to birds, birds of valley in Revisiting the Pigeons. Rhys’ second short set of four during the night delivered more intimacy, more sense of place, another avian metaphor this time the seagulls in Cardiff’s The Grey Space. He spoke of the decisions we can make midst the pain of life that allow us to appreciate the beauty in the mundane “the ordinary warmth of your parents home” was a concept given parity with the accomplishment of a life-long ambition in Living/Her Hands.

The importance of being present in the moment and its connection to an understanding of your past and a belief in the future was brought into sharp focus with the juxtaposition of two poems A view: Thomas Street; Broadfield Close; Sleep and 394462. The first poem a cynical commemoration of male Welsh lineage and the second an unsentimental, visceral but unashamed love poem for two women.

Rhys’ fellow alumni from UWTSD shattered the watershed early in the evening with an equally stirring short story. Full of black humour it was the tale of an opportunist date rape gone wring … or right.

The first P&P virgin of the night was Colin, forcing me into a shady corner with his jammy doughnut shirt and opening with a poetic celebration of its existence before taking us through a whirlwind of cheeky erotic poetry - soft word porn. How we loved a his hot thighs..

Corvus Macabre was Annie’s opening poem and only more macabre it became in her modern folk tale and warning local authorities to beware of their librarians this close to Halloween … and in this tale there was no lucky escape from a supernatural rape. Annie finished with a rendition of the poem that she first performed last week at the write4word/Oxjam event. It was written in response to the lines “Beauty will save the world; it will start with loving someone.” taken from the poem Ada/Island by Sait Faik Abasiyanik and the heart of a guerrilla poetry campaign supporting the message of peace voiced by those who died in the Ankara bombings.

The mood was immediately lightened again when Patrick enhanced his natural and captivating storytelling ability with comic verse. A adventure in international travel, that lost all its excitement once it finally did get off the ground but kept us fully entertained by the frustration experienced trying to do so.

Following Rhys’ third set launching the second half of the evening was an experimental performance by Steven who exhibited a recent painting alongside his reading. It was a complex task for the audience to respond to two media simultaneously as the narrative that emerged was as much about both creative processes as well as any common themes or meaning that they shared. The words and image not being complementary, but inextricably part of one work.

Our second P&P virgin was a very welcome young and American voice. Julia seemed immediately at ease both at the table she shared with other writers and at the microphone. We hope to see more of Julia over the coming months she is studying for her PhD in experimental poetry under Menna Elfyn at the UWTSD. Julia has obviously already had a flirtation with Hiraeth as she delivered a fantasy and sci-fi fuelled performance of beautiful language focussing on her still raw longing for family and home.

John gave us an assured and professional reading from TS Elliott despite having Old Possums forced into his hands only minutes before. His relating of the lazy wandering of Deuteronomy minded me of the far more energetic Domino Jack and our missing poet Anthony who was in Ireland reading at the Wexford Opera Fringe with Mel as part of write4word’s international event Yeats at the Fringe.

The theme of nonsense poetry was excellently extended by a recitation of a poem about a Rhino, brawny, horny and smelly from Granta short story writer Cynan.
Laurence followed Cynan’s short poem with two longer pieces. The first was his translation in verse of a tale from German from the exiled Iranian writer said which delivered messages of great optimism and self identity to children living in oppression. Featuring red balloons and the wonderful Flutterby There once was a flower was accompanied by an extended explanation of the printing issues of the book’s illustrations that included references to Comic Bombs.

Laurence’s second poem was in honour of his poetic mentor and this work also had a wonderful provenance connecting a poetic line that reached from Ezra Pound to Lawrence himself.

Mick was the last reader before Rhys once more took control of the microphone, his poem took us through centuries of debate of the origin of a motif, a motif with which he argued and cursed a trickster in its many forms. The image of three hares who shared only three ears but each of whom appeared to have the full complement of two. The poem ended with a change in tone to acceptance, forgiveness and celebration.

Rhys’ final poem Summer Drunk was a Carmarthen home coming poem a fitting tale of epiphany and self awareness, but the highlight was surely the penultimate The Driver. As a performer Rhys had built us to this point, a wonderful narrative that stood alone, though connected to so many of his earlier explored themes. The poem started with a great rhythm interrupted with a perfect change of pace and content, sounds and language merging before his final image of social commentary, apathy, technology and nature merging; qualified by the line “one thing that never changes is death.”

By our regular monthly standards it was a quiet night, perhaps that’s why I can recall the readings so clearly. These things are relative and 22 people maybe an audience with which many spoken word events would be pleased. I was glad to be back and I am so proud of the event that this community has established. A format that Anthony suggested in 2010 as a fund-raising event. An event that has grown and shaped itself, displaying, as I so often say, a consistent quality and diversity of voice. It is an event that is worthy of live broadcast on every one of its monthly occasions. I look forward to November.

The next poems and Poems and Pints at the Queens will be on Monday 23 November. The special guest reader will be Anthony Jones. Anthony’s debut collection Episodes and Fragments is published bilingually in Swedish and English and was launched in October in Sweden as part of the Internationell Ordfest Tranås. The event at the Queens in November will also be the UK launch party.