Tour Recap – Birmingham
It was a treat to be hosted by Writing West Midlands and the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing at Birmingham City University on 18 November. Opening the show in their fabulous new Parkside Building was local poet Stephen Morrison-Burke, who seemed to have quite a following within the crowd having been Birmingham Poet Laureate and the reigning National Slam Champion. His short reading didn’t disappoint. Delivered in a breathlessly confident style, Morrison-Burke walked us through being granted wishes by an angel; his anxieties on the birth of his daughter and the world of spoken word thirty years from now. Stephen’s are poems of unrelenting hope and his notion that poetry and literature should act as a tool for peace surely resonated with everyone in the audience.
Sean Borodale had walked from New Street Station to so the venue before the show, reminding him how walking is a key part of his writing process. Explaining his poetic method of poetry written on site, on location and in real time gave a real texture to his performance, as he went on to explain how he puts on a costume in his attempts to be “something I am not exactly”. In the case of his debut collection, Bee Journal, the costume is the gauze through which he views the hive, and he took us through a series of his chronological experience from collecting the bees on Exmoor and collecting honey, to holding the dying Queen in his hand: ‘I hold your hunchback;/ a carcase of lightness, no grief, part animal, part flower.’
Last up on the night was Emily Berry who read poems on the theme of long-distance relationships from her 2013 Forward Prize-winning debut, Dear Boy. In a charming performance, Berry added untold depths to her conversationally delivered poems, meaning they became so much more than laments on a change of government or first dates, and pack a punch that echoes long after reading. Emily’s new poems cover a range of topics – “I have a lay-person’s interest in psychoanalysis” – and a new sequence of sea poems are packed with wonderful images (‘it sulks in and out of the bay’). This is a young poet who seems supremely confident in her voice and maintains the darkly witty tone of much of Dear Boy in recounting her frequent encounters with her doctor: ‘Yes, I will vote for you, Osteopath. I will praise your children. I will consider holidaying in the Dordogne.’