Calendar boys: Write Out Loud at the naked launch
It’s not often a girl gets to watch a man strip whilst tucking into cheese and grapes, washed down with fine wine… so when Julian Jordon suggested that Joy France and I should take a trip into Manchester to review the Naked Muse calendar launch, I was tickled pink! This of course, had nothing to do with the plethora of husky, musky, naked male bodies I might be exposed to and everything to do with my appreciation of fine art, fine wine, fine conversation – oh and the odd bit of poetry.
Those of you abreast of WOL’s news articles may already know the calendar to be an innovative (though oddly controversial) fundraiser, hopefully bringing public awareness to the charity Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Furthermore that it owes its existence to the tireless efforts of Adam Clarke and Victoria Bennett, whose three-year-old son Django was diagnosed with type one diabetes in August last year.
Quirky naked calendars are of course no recent concept, the first major charity calendar hitting the headlines back in 1999 when a group of middle-aged housewives stripped off to raise funds for leukaemia research following the untimely death of a much-loved husband. The alternative WI calendar netted millions and went on to become a major Hollywood film. It also inspired others to look beyond the conventional "tin rattling" for new and joyous ways of raising funds. For me, the Naked Muse calendar is a first because it links my greatest love in life (poetry) with something else I’m rather partial to – the naked male form. Its charm comes from the joyful celebration of life which leaps out at you from every page you turn.
Although the calendar has caused ripples in a few literary circles, I loved the idea right from the start. It's great to see something fun and upbeat happening in the poetry world. For me, it turns on its head the idea that poets are an introspective bunch of bleeding hearts, feeding off their own angst.
The launch night itself at the Kraak gallery in Manchester was a great success with impressive performances from: Alan Buckley, Alexander Hutchison, Gill Hands, Tony Walsh, Graham Eccles, John Siddique, and Ernesto Sarezale. The night was compered by the indomitable Dominic Berry, who showed us his true performance credentials, along with much else. Regrettably I was only able to catch a "brief" piccie of Dominic but the energy and verve of his naked oratory will be grafted to memory for life.
Photos of the night will be up in the galleries before long, including all performers and the star turn of the night, Ernesto Sarezale. Those of you with long memories may recall that Ernesto was perhaps WOL’s most controversial Poem of the Month winner some two years ago, his "near the knuckle" love poem creating a few waves, to say the least. Watching and hearing Ernesto perform was a pleasure and gave me greater insight into his poetry. For Ernesto, there are no barriers in poetry or performance; the human body and its every sexual act, bears no stigma or shame. After the initial surprise of seeing Ernesto strip off, I started to feel the same way. In fact the whole room could have stripped off and it would have felt quite natural – a lesson learnt, maybe.
Perhaps I should say a little more about the calendar itself. The collaboration of male poet models with female photographers and female poets makes for interesting dynamics. The poetry accompanying each of the 12 months is based around the theme of love – not the easiest of topics for any poet to write about with originality – but somehow they do. I was totally impressed by the quality of the pieces and find myself unable to choose a favourite – I just loved them all.
As for the photography, if I say it’s incredibly subtle and tastefully done, I might deter voyeurs from buying it. So let’s just say it’s totally outrageous and should jolly well be banned! If you want to find out why October needs to learn his poetry off by heart, why November needs to get himself a Perspex shower cubicle, or why January is my favourite shot – then buy the calendar! Buy it for your girlfriend, buy it for your wife, buy it for your girlfriend and your wife - buy it for the love of humanity.
A calendar (wrapped in cling-film) will be raffled at the Christmas Wigan Tudor party. Why don’t other venue organisers get on board and do the same? Calendars can be obtained from this link together with details of original prints for sale and other giving ideas:
Thank you to all the marvellous performers who entertained us so well on Saturday night. A big thank you to all the photographers and poets, naked or otherwise who collaborated on the calendar. And a huge thank you to Adam and Victoria for bringing this wonderful idea to fruition. I hope the calendar is a great success - and can I offer to be a photographer on the next one?
The poet in the photograph is Andrew McMillan; the picture - at the launch exhibition, although not in the calendar - was taken by Annabel Williams at Greta Hall in the Lake District, the former home of Coleridge and Southey.
The calendar features 14 male poets and poems, 12 main months, one cover and one extra Wild Time month for all the creative dreams we say we don't have time for