The Out of Town Shuffle at the Poetry Cafe

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Andrew Smardon, Hilda Sheehan, Brad Schmauss, Jo Bell, Kim Moore, Liz Dorfman, Joey Connolly

Poets really are a welcoming bunch. Standing at the bar of the Poetry Café last night, I introduced myself to Kim Moore, who like Jo Bell at the Forward Prize, invited me to join her and friends before the readings (I didn’t quite get to the bottom of why Hilda Sheehan ended up in a freezer in Lidl, or was it Aldi?).

I was there for The Shuffle to hear seven poets from ‘out of town’ organised and hosted by Jill Abram. I liked the way Jill introduced the poets by reading a poem for each of them (she meets a lot of people, mainly on residential writing courses as far as I can gather). The Shuffle is on the last Saturday of the month and takes a theme (Gale Burns who also organises The Shuffle said the next one is the environment and includes Inua Ellams and Tom Chivers). This month’s ‘Out of Towners’ theme saw poets from as far afield as Swindon (Hilda Sheehan, originally from Manchester area, whose poems from her pamphlet Frances and Martine were both bizarre and very funny) and Alaska (Brad Schmauss, who read a touching and clever poem about his grandfather in hospital, called ‘Heart Rate Monitor’. He’s also in a band called No Coward Soul) and the poems reflected this geographical range.

Elizabeth Dorfman and Andrew Smardon’s poems of relationships and family struck a chord. Jo Bell rounded off the evening with poems from her two favourite themes (her words) boating and sex, and I particularly liked the poem about sailing down the Bristol Channel on a canal boat – I don’t think she was engaging in the other activity at the time.

I also had interesting conversations with poets Joolz Sparks, who with Hilaire has a project call London Undercurrents, and Holly Hopkins, who recently became assistant editor for the upcoming issue of the Rialto with Rishi Dastidar.

I purposely didn’t wear my Proletarian Poetry beret during the readings but a number of poems did stick out, one from Joey Connolly about his time working in a bookies (which I could more than relate to having served my time there also) and Kim Moore’s My People, which I will be featuring in the near future.

It was a really enjoyable evening, where as an out of towner myself, I very much felt at home.

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