'Hot spot' Rhythm & Muse goes out with stylish finale of poetry and music at the Ram Jam
All good things must come to an end – especially when a pub changes hands. And so it came to pass that a very successful poetry and music night in Kingston-upon-Thames marked its last event after four years at the Ram Jam Club, in the courtyard behind the Grey Horse pub with a rousing Christmas special party replete with open mic poets and headlined by the wonderful music and poetry band Little Machine.
Rhythm & Muse comperes Alison Hill and Nick Poole, pictured, are perhaps not your usual poetry hosts. Nick insists he is not actually a poet, although he regularly dashes off a few apposite lines to read on the night. And while Alison certainly is a poet, she generally only reads her own work at Rhythm & Muse on special occasions.
Last night was definitely one of those. Little Machine, who set famous poems to music – and new works by Carol Ann Duffy as well - delivered many crowd-pleasing favourites, and a moving selection of poems from the first world war era, including AE Housman’s ‘Blue Remembered Hills’; Patrick Shaw-Stewart’s ‘ I saw a man this morning’, about Gallipoli; Charlotte Mew’s ‘May 1915’; ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ (WB Yeats), ‘The Dug-Out’ (Siegfried Sassoon), Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’, and ‘Adlestrop’ (Edward Thomas).
Their set on Thursday night also included a brand-new poem by the poet laureate, ‘The Bee Carol’, and another one by Duffy called ‘The Single Bed’. They also do a rousing, punk-rock version of Philip Larkin’s ‘This Be The Verse’, which feels and sounds exactly right. And, by popular request, they finished with Byron’s ‘So We’ll Go No More O’Roving’ – “this is for Rhythm & Muse”, said Little Machine’s Chris Hardy.
Among the open micers, there was a spot of cabaret from Dino Mahoney and friends, which was a hoot. Janice Windle – who co-hosts two separate monthly events with partner Donall Dempsey in Guildford – delivered a tribute to the hard work of comperes and MCs everywhere. R&M regular Camilla Reeve thanked Alison and Nick for creating an atmosphere of “benevolent spirituality” at the Ram Jam.
Nick Poole stepped up one more time to deliver one of his specialities. Called ‘My Hand is Shaking’, he recalled the time he first stood in front of the mic: “I’d heard you poets were a dissolute lot.” After observing during his 7½ years as an R&M host that “I’ve seen your hands shaking too”, he concluded: “Tonight my hand is shaking … this time it’s because, this time it’s goodbye.”
Alison Hill read a couple of her own poems, including '664 Letters in a Tin Trunk', for Wilfred Owen and his mother, which was part of the England Remembered exhibition in September at Art Space Portsmouth, and in which Owen's mother “presses the lid on all that might have been”. Alison told the packed audience, many in festive garb to see R&M out with a bang, and with more than a few party poppers as well: “Yes, we’re taking a break, but keep an eye on the website, and you never know what might pop up.”
A few days earlier she had shared on Facebook an email from poet and promoter Adrian Mealing. It said: “Just a little pat on the back for all you have done in Kingston & beyond. I hope Rhythm & Muse will breathe and dance and frolic in another pub back room ‘ere long. Good on ya and all who believe in these mad little word & music furnaces. Such hot spots are the blood of it.”