Soundscapes, psychogeography, and a peach of a poem at The Other Room
I thought it was time for another visit to The Other Room in Manchester, and chose a night of very enjoyable but almost indescribable work at this welcoming home of experimental poetry. As Americans say, “You had to be there.” But here goes.
Joanne Ashcroft, pictured, read two long-form pieces. ‘Love Songs For Mina Loy’ was clever but hard to fathom on first hearing. Loy was a British polymath, poet and writer who mixed with the likes of Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, joined the Futurists and wrote a series of love songs/poems.
Ashcroft’s poetry explores sound and rhythm, and this piece emerged as both fragmented yet lyrical, strange but also somewhat familiar. My neighbour in the audience remarked that he enjoyed it but wanted to go home and look up some of the words she used.
I enjoyed her second piece more. ‘What The Tree Said’ is a work in progress, an enthralling soundscape, with particulate emphasis on key words (rooted, rooting etc) and repeated use of the prefixes un- and en- (which reminded me of the analysis of Thomas Hardy’s poem Drummer Hodge and its use of the word ‘un-coffined” in Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys - a diversion I know, but it sprang out at me).
Joanne won the Poetry Wales Purple Moose Prize 2012. Her pamphlet Maps and Love Songs for Mina Loy, which evolved from responses to sounds in Mina Loy’s work, is available from Seren. She is a member of the Poetry and Poetics Research Group at Edge Hill University, and teaches undergraduate poetry and fiction at Edge Hill.
New York City-based poet, collaborator and artist, EJ McAdams was intriguing. He is inspired by nature, ecology and word puzzles and patterns, and his work prompted by a walk in New York City at the time of the Occupy Wall Street protest was a successful blend of photography, video and poetry - psychogeography meets verse. The poem he composed on a trip to Indonesia channelled through Google Translate was effective, and his quietly humorous and gentle presentation was a winning formula.
I thought the most effective writer of the evening was Tokyo-born Lila Matsumoto, now in Scotland after being brought up in the US. She has collaborated with video artists and composed work inspired by other art forms, including Scottish artist Philip Maltman, and uses music with some of her visual representation of words. Her kitchen poem about foods including peaches, pancakes and fondant cake was simply delicious. She edits scree online magazine and runs a poetry and music performances series. Her first collection of poetry is due from Sad Press this spring.
The Other Room is hosted by Tom Jenks, Scott Thurston and James Davies at the wonderful Castle pub, Oldham Street, Manchester. Next date is 30 April for the seventh birthday event.