Reviews of the Ephemeral

Posts Tagged ‘Donall Dempsey’

Keats House Poets’ Forum 11/12/11

In Performance Poetry on April 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm

– reviewed by James Webster

The Keats House Forum is a unique kind of poetry event. Keats House is the museum-cum-memorial to John Keats, where he lived for two years, wrote some of his most memorable poetry and met his fiancée Fanny Brawne (who was apparently something of a creative proto-punk). I know this because those of us who were there early were given a guided tour, saw all the Keats memorabilia and were given a potted history of his time in the house. It made for an appropriate start to a poetry event (even if it was odd to be at a show where there was no bar).

The format’s simple and effective; hosted by Simon Mole (one of the Keats House Poets) who made a point of asking what everyone wanted for Christmas (recorded bold in brackets), the open mic spots were interspersed with performances from the Keats House Poets. Then Kat Francois headlined and closed the show.

Keats House Poets

  • Simon (road bike with drop-down handles) started us off with a piece (inspired by Human Planet), about a guy who can hold his breath for a really long time. It was a breathy performance, filled with verdant language describing an underwater world. By piling on the language and increasing speed Simon builds up a real sense of pressure, which he breaks occasionally with a fun call and response.
  • Laila Sumpton (Mary Poppins powers): previously seen at the Beaconsfield Reading Series, she started with a piece on Ear Worms (medically described as a musical hallucination). It was cleverly put together: you could feel the song entwining itself into your brain as she describes it.
  • And ‘Viral Times’ managed to make the personification of the common cold seems super-cute.
  • Anthony ‘The Hurricane’ Hett (socks that don’t fall down) gave a calm, but captivating performance of ‘For John’, emotionally drawing on the awkwardness and heart-rending nature of visiting sick friends. The words tipped over each other as he struggled to speak as it finished with a powerful monologue to his dying friend.
  • Paul Sherreard and Stephanie ‘Sonority’ Turner performed some re-workings of Keats’s poems:
  • Sonority turned Keats’s ‘Solitude’ into the contemporary ‘I Go Solo’, an engaging piece on a late night walk that made its words sound out like footsteps on a quiet street.
  • And ‘Song’ is translated by Paul into ‘I Got a Dog’, which was an adorable piece on feeling abandoned by the death of a pet.

Open Mic

  • Janice Windle (gallery desperate to sell her paintings) read ‘Beginning a Painting’ which described frustration and procrastination with nice intricate language.
  • While ‘His Name’ was an utterly gorgeous and magical (in an age-old blood magic kind of way) poem about finding a bone good luck charm.
  • Wizard of Skill (radio) performed ‘My Radio’. His performance is always full of quirky energy, but his idiosyncratic delivery swallows a lot of his language, the poem lacked focus, and he repeats his chorus far too often. That said, he did have the audience chanting along to the chorus.
  • Kaori (date with a special someone) captured the audience completely with a lovely tale of nostalgia for Godzilla destroying people on TV, contrasted with a touching family story of an earthquake.
  • Deanna Rodgers (headshots and membership of spotlights) read a roaming, rough-and-tumble of a poem, filled with the energy of her youth, riding over London with friends with ‘jackets on inside-out because we are Fresh Princesses’ on the old Routemaster buses (she also runs Come Rhyme With Me with Dean Atta).
  • Ed Mayhew (best free thing you can find) gave a lively performance of a hugely enjoyable poem on a protracted rap battle with the Mayor of Lime Regis. Some entertainingly clunky rhyme, and a superbly fluid, eloquent spoken word monologue, made for an ace poem.
  • Jess (little person in my life) based a poem on her ‘wish list for life when [she] was young and stupid’. Her younger self’s aspirations were a joyous mess of the hedonistic, anarchic and bohemian. Best line: ‘being thrown out of this establishment will be the best thing I’ve done all day’.
  • Donall Dempsey (Janice Windle’s filtrum) gave us his super sweet ‘Love Potion’ dedicated to his partner’s filtrum.
  • And also a ‘Love Song for Emily’ (Dickinson that is) that was beautiful on Dickinson’s ‘perfect embroidery of knowing’ and ‘The Present Moment’ was terrifyingly cute account of his daughter giving him a present of stone, grass and twigs.


  • Kat Francois (a new front-left tyre)
  • She starts with a description of someone who ‘used to dance in her not so long ago days’, using repetition to create a rhythm of music, it becomes all the more upsetting when things change and the woman’s limbs ‘hang useless’, but ends inspiringly with the affirmation that ‘in her mind she travels to places that in reality are absolute impossibilities’.
  • Next, a piece that describes a woman’s body and her issues with it; from her ‘inviting mango-calves’ to her dress that turns into a ‘crimson whirlwind of wonder’ with a gust of wind. Again it’s a triumph of freedom over frustration as she’s ‘sick and tired of hating herself’ and steps out to dance.
  • Her ‘West Ken Blues’ was performed imaginatively, using the space and props perfectly, she weaves the images of ‘the days when innocence reigned’ in the air for us. Starting with larger than life characters, moving to tragedy and pain, she movingly evokes the atmosphere of this troubled and low-income neighbourhood. A superb socially conscious performance piece.
  • Her final ‘Poetry Addict’ is another great performance. An explanation of all the reasons she performs, where you can hear her gasping for the breath that poetry gives her, it’s both intimate and performative.

Conclusion: A really strong afternoon of spoken word. The standard of the open mic (with the possible exception of Wizard of Skill), the Keats House poets and feature Kat Francois was incredibly high. One of the most consistently quality afternoons of poetry I’ve attended, with a variety of styles and themes to entertain and inform, whatever your tastes. Keats would be proud (probably).


Last Sage & Time of 2011

In Performance Poetry, Seasonal/End of year on January 5, 2012 at 1:59 am

@ the Charterhouse Bar, 16/11/2011

– reviewed by Koel Mukherjee –

Review of the last Sage and Time of 2011

This was my third time at Sage and Time, and the last event of the year, and that sense of community, supportiveness and general good humour that makes this event so special was very much in evidence, with poets referencing each other and the event itself in their pieces, and plenty of laughs throughout the night.


  • Hosting duties were split between accomplished poets Richard Marsh and Anna Le (both members of the Dirty Hands poetry collective), and the obvious friendship and sense of fun between these two set the tone for a relaxed and welcoming night.
  • Richard Marsh kicked the night off with a sweet, whimsical tale of two misfits who find love at the gym. His characters were touchingly relatable and vividly rendered by a fluid, engaging delivery. As a host, he’s charming, always taking the time to compliment and engage with each performance, picking out a line he likes, or making a friendly joke.

  • Anna Le hosted the second half, and as always I was struck by the obvious passion with which she introduces performers. Her introductions are both a rousing welcome, and a great anticipation-builder.
  • She performed a piece of her own called “Spine”, which I loved, an exploration of courage, fear and determination animated by a mesmerising delivery that used dynamics and careful pacing to great effect.

Open mic highlights:

  • Stephanie Dogfoot’s ‘Equus’ was a wonderful expression of sisterly love and support. It had its share of serious, grown-up emotional content, but masterfully set against the surreal backdrop of childhood –the bizarre worlds that people who have grown up together create, complete with burnt teddybears and clown phobias. Through this lens of shared imaginings she made the serious, adult crisis at the heart of the poem achingly poignant: A surreal exploration of the intense, enduring, and weird nature of sibling love.
  • Donall Dempsey’s ‘A Bridge Is Only A Bridge When…’ imagined a woman’s parting words at the end of an unpleasant marriage. The elegantly phrased poem compared the failed relationship to the striking image of a “half-built bridge, silhouetted by sunset” but “startlingly surreal in its unfinishedness”. He also performed an intimate tribute to his partner Janice’s philtrum (the little cleft between your nose and lip, non-anatomists!), re-imagining it beautifully as “the indent left by the finger of God.”
  • The Janice in question was Janice Windle, whose own pieces were imbued with an elegant, conversational delivery.  One of them was a companion piece to Donall’s, which declared, “I’m in love with your mandible, darling” which concluded an affectionate exchange.
  • Among James Webster’s pieces was an unexpectedly touching musing on his ideal superpower. He would choose to be “quietly super”, with the power to find lost things, especially people. Acknowledging that he wouldn’t be able to take them home, he’d be glad, at least, to “give them someone to talk to”.
  •  Amy Acre’s gorgeously life-affirming “love poem to the sea” was one of my favourites.  “As old men talk to their dogs”, she talks to the sea, and the sea both sets her free and inspires her to love of all the messy wonder of life; from dandelions and dragonflies to the delight of Sage and Time itself. It was intensely sensual and personal; proclaiming the “red earth” as her church, she let us glimpse her relationship with the world. And did so with a graceful, inspiring passion that made me want to run to the nearest beach, take my clothes off and dance around naked in the sea.
  • During Keith Jarrett’s inspiring performance of ‘Parting Words’ I had to work to keep my tearducts from boiling over into undignified spillage. Masterful use of repetition and assonance gave the piece a mesmerising, mantra-like quality, while his quietly determined delivery complemented his perfectly measured pacing. A resolutely optimistic self-reminder to not be defined or limited by one’s postcode, by one’s past, or one’s fear of the future – something I’m sure most of us need from time to time. Keith Jarrett is awesome.

Featured Performers:

  • The first featured poet of the night was Sh’maya, an engaging performer whose first piece was a meditation on ancestry, history and loneliness developed from the image of a tap-dancing boy on city streets, rendered with a passionate, electrifying delivery and skilfully imbued with a sense of urgency and movement.
  • Sh’maya’s second poem was about a quest to find the most beautiful word in the world. His protagonist imagined travelling around the world, meeting different people who suggested different words with special meaning to them and their lives. Full of potential, but the poem was seriously hobbled by the cliché-riddled depictions of some of the characters, which often verged on patronising stereotype. The worst offender was a depiction which verged on romanticising suffering: a childless woman standing on a Kenyan beach looking yearningly out to sea, clinging to the hope of a child, proclaiming the most beautiful word to be ‘yearn’. As if she (and therefore, the poet) were revelling in her misery. The problem was not the attempt to give a voice to diverse characters, but that they did not sound like real people with real ugly and beautiful life experiences, rather, magical props placed where they were for the sole purpose of providing Sh’maya’s protagonist with a story (and in the woman’s case, a means of transport). This was intensely problematic.
  • The second featured act, Anthony Joseph, was new to me. And he blew me away.
  • Joseph read pieces from his collection Bird Head Son, “an autobiography in verse”, and a few more from his latest, Rubber Orchestras. His poems ranged from touching character portraits, memories of childhood and experimental jazz-poetry, to musings on family heritage and history against the backdrop of colonialism. A prose excerpt about a future colony of Afro-Caribbean people on an alien planet, from his novel The African Origins of UFO, was infused with vivid detail that brought to life the Caribbean cultural roots of the community while retaining the extra-terrestrial, futuristic strangeness of the setting (where exist such wonders as “surrealist butter”).
  • His startling, inventive use of language, vibrant musical delivery and persistently brilliant animation of memory, place and history were a constant delight.


Anthony Joseph (the crowning moment of the night for me) talked about the need for poetry to be more than flat words on a page, to be alive and affecting, and like all good poetry events, this night of Sage and Timey goodness was full of that. Brisk-moving waves of poets inviting the room into their worlds. While not every performer was as compelling as Anthony, the night was still packed with strong, inventive voices (not all of whom I could mention here sadly) and by the end of it I was filled up with poetry – with language, ideas and glimpses into people’s personal universes, their senses of humour, their stories, the inside of their brains and hearts and marrow. A fitting finale to Sage and Time’s 2011.

Sage and Time’s First Birthday @ The Charterhouse Bar 27/07/11

In Performance Poetry, Seasonal/End of year on August 23, 2011 at 12:11 am

-Reviewed by James Webster and Dana Bubulj

I haven’t exactly been reticent on my love of Sage and Time. It’s a fantastic night run by Anna Le and the consistently jaw-dropping Dirty Hands collective.

And it was a charming celebration. Poets were welcomed individually, always with a smile and often with a hug, reminding me what makes S&T such a nurturing environment. Included in the ticket price was a glass of wine and a slice of cake, so we could all toast S&T’s first year in style, and the evening featured a smorgasboard of poetic talent with 29 poets performing in total. It was an extravaganza of poetry; a night filled with verse, love and the supportive atmosphere that makes Sage and Time so special.

The Host

  • Kat Francois was, um, wow. She brought this brazen energy and engaging off-the-cuff comedy to the evening. Some of her quips could’ve been horrendous if done by someone with less charisma, but, boy, does she make it work.
  • And her poem where she asserted ‘I’m a poetry whore’ was an insightful take on performing, with great rhythm to her sing-song delivery. She summed up how the microphone is a portal into you, but also a shield between you and the audience; how performing makes you the centre of attention, but also so nakedly vulnerable. In her capable voice, simply repetitions became repeated gasps leading up to the final ‘just so I can breath.’ Like many poets, she dedicated her poem to Anna Le. ‘Cos Anna’s lovely.

Odes to Sage and Time

A goodly number of poets performed pieces inspired by S&T itself. With excellent result.

  • Will Stopha: A former host of S&T, his beautiful phrasing was a loving and clever look back, referencing so many of the poets who helped make S&T the success it is. He’s giving up hosting duties for now and it was a touching goodbye.
  • Anna Le: Anna’s poem ‘Beautiful People’ again referenced a lot of the S&T regulars, and it summed itself up sumptuously. Anna, like the people she referenced, made ‘verbs do things verbs don’t usually do’. I was tempted to just ask her for a copy of the poem and post that instead of this review.
  • Richard Marsh: His repeated rhyme on Anna Le’s name was an amazing embrace of a poem for Anna, the S&T poets and poetry itself. Joy.

Assorted Poets

  • Mr G’s poem on the Olympics, on Jesse Owen ‘the Running Man’ was flowing, strong, and used the Olympics as an effective metaphor for political unrest.
  • The Wizard of Skill’s my radio was typical of his style. Loudly and confidently performed, lots of repetition, and I’m sure there’s a point hidden there somewhere.
  • James Webster’s ‘That’s Why the Lady is a Cunt’ was delivered with passion and earnestness, but his delivery was stilted and would’ve been better if he’d learnt the poem.
  • Kai Kamikaze’s ‘Heroin Diaries’ was very evocative of his time ‘living on bastard street’, but I feel there could’ve been more to it.
  • Did I mention that I love Donall Dempsey and Janice Windle? Because I do. They’re fast building a reputation as the first couple ofLondonpoetry. And their combined set really showed off their interplaying verse and personalities. From Donall’s ‘Kiss Kiss and Cuddles Man’ (as all the good superheroes are taken) to Janice’s joyously near-explicit poem on the sex you shouldn’t have above the age of 40, they are riotously lovable.
  • Vanessa’s emotive ‘lunchtime playground romance’ was a thought-provoking poem on childhood serenity and bullying; it had a great flow and fiery delivery.
  • Richard Marsh’s second poem (see above) made one thing clear: he likes fools. It was an empowering and charmingly clever rallying call for the fools of this world. ‘Rejoice, you mucky-faced adventurers’ indeed.
  • JazzMan John is part of the S&T fixtures. His ‘July Poem’ was spat out with driving momentum, an ode to anyone in need of an ode. Frankly I was disappointed that we didn’t all run out and commit immediate acts of civil disobedience.
  • Jethro’s piece about an audition from the POV of a pretentious director deftly combined a plethora of meaningless theatrical jargon, but didn’t quite come alive for me.
  • Peter Hayhoe was one of many to spank, sorry, thank Anna Le for putting S&T together. ‘Pinch’ was a poem for fighting for your place and finding it. It did make me want to ‘grab [my] pen and paper and go to war’.
  • Mark Thompson’s ‘Dance for Dancing’s Sake’ was at once both beautifully awkward and at one with its own rhythm. He hosts Bang Said the Gun, by the way.
  • Katy Bonna’s ‘Organs’ was a highlight, on the idea of two peoples’ hearts and minds sneaking off together. Its irregular beat beats in compliment to the theme, backed up by some choice words.
  • Lionheart was odd. Some truly original imagery was coupled with hyperbolic bitterness and it seemed his poem could be summed up as ‘other guys don’t respect you, but I respect you, so why aren’t you sleeping with me?’ Also see: Nice Guy TM.
  • Anna Le claimed not to be very good with words. She lied. She performed “I am Many Rivers’, the first poem I ever heard her perform and the reason I came to Sage & Time in the first place. I loved it then and I love it now. Her language, her delivery, it’s delectable, personal and personable. You can feel the rivers of culture and history that she speaks of flowing through her voice.
  • Lisa Handy managed to fake an orgasm onstage and have it not be embarrassing. Her poem was sexual and explicit, without being sleazy, her words were loaded, dripping with tension, and felt like she was caressing you with poetry (and I don’t think I know her well enough to be comfortable with that).
  • While Amy Acre was performing, a bottle of champagne spontaneously erupted. I’m not even exaggerating, that happened. Her first poem where she affirmed ‘this, poetry, this is mine’ was a poem ingrained in the bone, a shout of joy for having a voice. I’m surprised all the champagne didn’t pop.
  • Will Stopha was armed only with his own beat-boxing and a ‘key-chordian’ and performed some layered poetry/music/audience interaction hybrid, recording the audience and playing them back as his own chorus. Amazing rhythm, wording and content; he made me believe London is indeed a city that’s ‘got more ideas than pigeons’. Top drawer.

In the end

I wish I could fit all the poets into this review. Sadly, I can’t, so what you’ve read is a brief summary of the highlights of S&T’s first birthday. It was a magically inclusive night. While I can’t say all of the poets wowed me, most of them did.

And that’s all I really hope for. Plus a little bit more.

Poetry Jam @ The Tea Box 13/05/11

In Performance Poetry on June 1, 2011 at 11:06 pm

-Reviewed by James Webster and Dana Bubulj

The Night

The Tea Box is a charming, genteel and tea-filled place during the day, but at night it dons a mask and cape and transforms into a vibrant local arts venue. With tea.

Last month I commented that while a great night, the Jam@TheBox lacked polish, not so this time. Polish was plentiful; the event gleamed so much you could see my face in it.

The Host

And the clearest reason I can see for this month’s smooth, polished, professional Jam was Anna Le’s superb hosting. Previously seen at Sage and Time, her hosting was (as always) slick and affable, quick to joke and quicker to banter with her audience, who were all too happy to engage with her warm and open hosting.

Oh, and her poetry:

  • Her 1st, ‘Case of Sera Sera’, dedicated to a friend Sarah, was powerful and filled with a knowing love for its inspiration that was beautiful, hurt, but finally in control of her stormy past. Anna’s delivery gets more focused as it progresses, reflecting the sentiment that ‘you can steer destiny.’
  • Her 2nd called ‘The Crown Forsaking Me’ deftly mixed her own feelings for her hair with a running newscast providing some political commentary. While she did forget the words, she did so quite endearingly.
  • ‘Vowel-Play’ and its sweet wordplay makes me happy. Dedicated and read to an audience volunteer. ‘I can’t help thinking of the last vowel in the alphabet’ she tells us; managing to say the words without having to use them.

The Open Mic

  • Elizabeth Darcy Jones (whose book ‘Distinguished Leaves: Poetry for Tea-Lovers’ is out in September) is perfect for this venue, like a person steeped in The Tea Box itself. Her poems are full of both life and tea, and in one case, bottoms. Her adorable poem ‘Beloved Bottom’ left us ‘bum-founded’ and sparked an ongoing discussion of bottoms throughout the evening.
  • Donall Dempsey, was full of charm, his poems are funny, smart and sometimes sadly beautiful. My favourite was ‘Homepage’ a precisely brilliant and bleak poem. The poem ‘If Mice were the Size of Kangaroos’, written with a class of children, was whimsically amusing (‘Just take the cheese, please!’).
  • Julie Mullen sexes up vegetables (which I believe is illegal inTexas). It’s certainly not my cup of tea, but I can’t fault her delivery, which makes the best of her poetry’s charms. But her ‘She said, she said’ melded two voices into one sensual whole rather effectively. Interestingly, a copy of her collection ‘Erotic Poetry for Vegans and Vegetarians’ rode on the campaign bus with David Cameron during the last general election.
  • James Webster the whiplash poet for the evening went from a bemused poem about the Royal Wedding’s coverage to the harrowing ‘Pain Poem’, which had the audience rapt. His flowing and passionate delivery spoke of the desperate search for pain both on the streets of London and at the edge of a razor.
  • Sh’mya’s ‘Hong Kong in a Jazz Breeze’ was a superb breathless and nostalgic look back at his time in Hong Kong. The language was lush and intense with a chaotic and increasingly frantic delivery. Though it had a slight ring of ‘what I did on my gap year’, it was frenetically entertaining.
  • Peter Hayhoe, a previous feature at Sage and Time, was described by Anna as a ‘poetic surgeon, he grabs your funnybone and plucks your heartstrings’. His poem/short story ‘100 Ways to Die’ asked if media fear-mongering and the advent of social media devalue human experience (‘humans have sex drives, not hard drives!’). His ‘Broken on the Pillar’ was harsh and violent, but beautiful. And his poem on Sainsbury’s check-out machines not approving of his hair, poetry and mum made you feel sorry for the machines’ lonely, thankless existence.
  • Janice Winddle A nice mixture of poems, from her own naughty youth, and the failure of words and their traitorous tendency to mean different things being overcome by touch, to a poem on the past of the Rome washing over her. Evocative and eloquent.
  • Amy Acre promised us she wouldn’t fuck with our heads (as she has a wont to do). Instead she touched us (not literally) with her ‘Erasing the Dictionary’, where she symbolises rewriting her own romantic past and outlook with going through the OED with a marker pen. In the end she proposes to ‘just lie back on the blank pages’, completing her longing for a relationship not defined by, well, definitions.
  • Kevin Reinhart had a shy indie-charm. His poems had magic, musical references and shyness and got more confident as he went on. His characters carry ‘shyness like a sick-note’.
  • The Brothers Grimm His ‘This Boy’ on a boxer (probably Mohammed Ali) ‘misconceived in the mighty melting pot of the mono-culture’ made his words into punches. The room craned their necks towards ‘Ganz Vorbei’ (Quite Finished) a quiet and forlorn poem, and ‘Art for Fuck’s Sake’ had the balls to begin ‘All black people look the same to me’ and then leaving a slightly too-long pause before ‘All white people look the same to me’ building up into a rousing poem on the unifying power and importance of art.
  • Anna Mae’s first two poems, about pro-anexoria and obesity seemed to convey the same message: look at the starving people in the third world and stop being so self-obsessed. It was well expressed, but a little preachy. She contrasted this with the lure of a past lover through the metaphor of a directionless bus route: suitably meandering while maintaining its poignancy.
  • Donald a moving poem on the 7/7 bombing, a clash natural and architectural beauty with a city’s industrial past, and a superbly sweet poem to a lost cat. But he didn’t seem to offer any new perspectives.
  • Anna Matiu‘s performance perfectly matched the tone of her poems. Her ‘Moving Experience’ sounded unsure of its own place, all intricate and pretty questioning. And ‘To Insomnia’ mixed its thoughts and phrases all up in a tired run to the sad and tired beauty of daylight.
  • Andrew Flower ‘Conversations with a Friend’ was nicely questioning, tongue slightly kissing cheek. ‘Fate not Heard’ did what many are afraid to do, and used hyperbole seriously, questioned the point of life without passion.

The Feature

Keith Jarrett was a great focal point to the night. So much so that he will soon be receiving an article here all of his own. To summarise, his poetry was flowing, intelligent, reflective, political and affecting. It was poetry of homes, of belief, of life. Joyous.

This month the Tea Box had a great deal of wonderful poetry, was well run and showed that you can squeeze a lot of poets into one night and still bring the awesome all night long.