Yesterday (Ed Note: written on 26th March) marks day four of WinchesterFest, the exciting live-streamed poetry festival run by the amazing Whiskey and Beards.
I must say that I feel particularly sorry for Alex as he has to SOMEHOW top the amazing line-up of talent from all over the country that graced our screens on the 25th March. The showcase was hosted by WinchesterFest co-producer and all-round-amazing-poet Alex Vellis who filled in the reserve slot as we had a last-minute drop out. Featuring the debut of the ‘Black-Hat-Poets’: Sam J. Grudgings, Gemma Stocks, Fay Roberts, and Alex himself.
The showcase was set out much as they were pre-pandemic; we have a welcome from our host, then around ten-minute slots from our line-up of poets with introductions to each. I am lucky enough to say that, of our four performers, I have only ever seen one so was introduced to some awesome poets. Alex had some wonderful introductions for our line-up, and I think it would be a real shame not to include them, so I have…
Alex: For our first poet this evening, we have a poet who, interestingly enough, travelled back in time to the second world-war and invented a type of plane that we don’t have any longer today. It’s made out of some sort of Atlantean stone that only existed for a brief moment before time forgot…
Gemma Stocks was our first performer of the night and I was honestly blown-away. Her first poem, The Semi-Colon, was a political and topical commentary on the current pandemic that was surprisingly uplifting: ‘Come alive / this is a call not to survive / but thrive’. Each poem seemed to take an entirely different turn from the last; meaning, by the end, I honestly had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised with each.
Group Introduction: Infamous bear-wrestler / now disgraced / *unnerving silence* / which heralds the end of time…
Calling Alex a reserve poet truly feels like a crime. His first poem, Antigen, embraces a powerful, passionate, and aggressively hopeful style that cannot fail but get the audience pumped. He ended his set with Are You as Blue as Your Balls Are? I will let you make any further inferences from the title. One of the things that always impresses me with Alex’s performances is his ability to balance the audience out; even in a set of ten-minutes, I found myself passionately excited, almost in tears, and lost-for-breath from laughing.
Alex: Our next poet… has a fucking massive sword…
Sam J. Grudgings – OH MY GOD! What an entrance! There was a microphone, a book, an amazing moustache, and an honest-to-god sword. Meet Sam: ‘I’m a poet because therapy is expensive.’
Sam’s performance was intoxicating. He brings a physicality to the stage that makes it really hard to take notes because I didn’t want to take my eyes off the screen. His poetry focuses a lot on religion and God, entwining impactful biblical metaphors with down-to-earth lines that give no forgiveness: ‘But then / communion / is a bad time in recovery.’
Alex: Fay Roberts… actually invented… the alphabet. Now I know that sounds like a ridiculous claim, I mean how can someone invent the alphabet? But when you think about it, everything has to be invented at some point so, quite simply, Fay spoke the letters into existence and from there poetry was born…
Our final performer for the evening, Fay Roberts, started zir set with a soft, melodic poem that incorporates an element of musicality into the structure of the poem. Personally, I’m not usually a fan of bringing singing into poetry, however, this poem proved to be an exception. Zir poetry uses a lot of tantalising nature-themed metaphors that I find somewhat reminiscent of the Romantics mixed-in with stylised performance poetry to create very vivid and effective imagery. They describe themselves ‘generally not the poet people ‘whoop’ after. I am the poet people go ‘hmmm.’’ Fay has a unique performance style; soft, flowing and a little theatrical that draws the audience in and grips their attention. I’m still trying to get over this line from I hope I’m in Clover: ‘Some people are like the plants the gardener never intended.’ Hmmmm.
All in all, this was one poetry showcase that you don’t want to have missed. But, on the upside, you don’t have to! If you weren’t able to listen tune-in live, then you can check out the WinchesterFest Facebook page and watch the livestream in its entirety.
Please remember that the poets and producers on these events are trying really hard to create a supportive environment for people to listen to poetry, share their own work and discuss poetry over chat. The organisation and running of these events take time and money, if you are able to, please try and donate through our Just Giving page so we can continue to support local artists and through this difficult time:
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