This will be the last review I write for Grizzly Pear; it might also be the last review I write for Blogfest, so expect emotions, sentimentality and a good dose of self-deprecation. It’s like a review cocktail – snappy title to be confirmed.
HISTORY (Part One)
Roughly two years ago Ben Norris had an idea: transform Writers’ Bloc much-loved but irregularly attended and unnamed open mic night into the poetry night to go to in Birmingham. Names were thrown around –Loudhailer was a rumoured favourite – Grizzly Pear was born and so were a series of questionable posters. Some of the biggest names in poetry have headlined: Tim Clare, Vanessa Kissule, Bohdan Piasecki, Katie Bonna. Ben Norris’s ego hasn’t inflated to the size of the top room of the Bristol Pear; in fact, he’s still a very humble but incredibly hardworking man.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part One)
It’s 00.16. I just attended my last Grizzly Pear.
SENTIMENTAL PERSONAL NOTE (Part One)
Three years ago I joined Writers’ Bloc. In the ArtSoc room of the Guild I met most of my current housemates and many of the friends I still have now. I met a whole host of students who seemed incredibly knowledgeable and full of ideas. I met people who could write. I met people who could write fantastically. I met people who were interested in what I was writing. I met people who wanted to help me become a better writer.
At the end of my first year of university, I finally plucked up the courage to read a poem on the stage of the Bristol Pear. I basically read to about twenty people I called friends and it was the most terrifying yet comforting environment. Now they can’t get me off the stage. Okay, they can. Luckily for most I’m a get-on-stage-read-your-poem-and-go kind of girl. (Is that lucky? I’ve never reviewed my own poems.)
Yes, all the times I’ve reviewed Grizzly Pear I’ve read a poem too. Shocking, I know. I mean, writing poetry and writing a review? I didn’t get enough attention as a child.
SENTIMENTAL PERSONAL NOTE (Part One and a Half)
Basically, without Writers’ Bloc and its open mic nights I wouldn’t have got over my fear of public speaking and I definitely wouldn’t be writing poetry, let alone going to do a Master’s in poetry. I’m naming my first child after all former and current committee members.
If I do actually name my first child after you all, you all have to buy it a present.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Two)
What’s great about Grizzly Pear is that it’s diverse: poems can be funny, poignant, satirical, political, emotional, reflective (and sometimes all these things at once), and Grizzly Pear’s open mic section always offers at least one of each.
Funny poem: Meg Tapp’s ‘I Look At Other Men’
A sort of love poem to her boyfriend that also gave us an insight into what it’s like to fancy anything with a pulse (or just waiters and celebrities). It was hilarious, but also contained some really well-wrought images.
Poignant poem: by Lorna Meehan
Poems about ‘big societal issues’ often come across as boring: yes, we agree that certain things are wrong with the world, but writing about it doesn’t necessarily make a good poem. Luckily, Lorna is an excellent poet and tackles such issues with a personal edge. Using an image of a woman weighing lettuce leaves, Lorna took the audience on a journey through the difficulties of eating disorders. It was a wonderfully performed and beautifully written poem.
Satirical poem: by Jack Crowe
I class Jack Crowe’s poem as the ‘satirical one’ because ‘Neil Cornwell has stated that “satire, humour and incongruity are always potential ingredients of the absurd”.’ (And that, dear readers, is also the first line of my undergraduate dissertation. Riveting, I know.) Jack Crowe does absurdism brilliantly. Basically, his poems contain the Russell Edson and Luke Kennard tone that I have spent nine months trying to perfect and haven’t. Jack Crowe’s speaker was planning a mental breakdown and the perfected factual manner complimented the black humour perfectly.
Jack Crowe, I’ll buy your first collection when it comes out.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Two and a Quarter)
Political poem: by James Grady
James Grady used to attend the University of Birmingham and having performed at some festivals last summer, I’ve heard rumours that he might be doing something similar again. If he’s not, he should. I call James Grady’s poem ‘political’ in the best sense possible: it isn’t one of those ‘stand on my soapbox and rant to you about stuff’ kind of poems; James Grady is able to weave topical issues into a well-rhymed, lively performance that is full to the brim with laughs. Think Luke Wright with less hair.
Emotional poem: Lily Blacksell’s break up poem.
She said that she writes poems that aren’t just about being in love or break ups, but they’re good, so she can carry on doing so if she’d like. Actually, Lily, you can just write the former, because I’m not endorsing heartbreak. Lily does beautiful images and a dry sense of humour like no one else. Another one for the festival circuit, I think. (By the way, she’s also the new President of Writers’ Bloc, so she’s basically the queen.)
SENTIMENTAL PERSONAL NOTE (Part Two)
This one time, in Writers’ Bloc, there was this really cool inter-university poetry slam, and Lily was on the University of Birmingham team. She was nicknamed ‘the duchess’, so her queen status isn’t really an exaggeration at all. She just climbed the social ladder. It’s like she’s Cady Heron but the Burn Book is just a book of really good poems.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Two and Half)
Reflective poem(s): James Dolton, Miles Bradley and Ben Norris
I think this would be an ultimate dream-team poetry combo, but alas, all three performed separately. Their work had similar themes though, so I shall group them all together. The poets considered what the last three years have meant to them in very different ways: James Dolton’s was a darker look at what one might have experienced at university, but what will be lost as a result of leaving it; resident Grizzly Pear DJ Miles Bradley made us consider that Ben Norris might have forced us to read poetry for the past two years.
SENTIMENTAL PERSONAL NOTE (Part Three)
Miles doesn’t get enough credit. Every Grizzly Pear he makes me want to dance. Thank you, Miles.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Two and Three-quarters)
And Ben Norris read a poem about how everyone thinks we haven’t been living in the ‘real world’ for last three years.
I do not agree with Ben Norris’s claim that post graduate study is a way to avoid the ‘real world’. I just don’t want a ‘proper’ job yet (nor do I want one until I finish my PhD).
I realise that these views may not have been Ben Norris’s.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Three)
Some poems fit into these categories and some don’t. The open mic section of the evening was of a particularly high standard.
This review is already ridiculously long and if I write about every single performer I will never go to bed and will therefore feed my already horrific insomnia and black coffee addiction. If I don’t write about your poem, it’s not because I didn’t like it.
SENTIMENTAL PERSONAL NOTE (Part Four)
Tom Crossland, your poem about your dog was beautiful. I like anthropomorphised animals. I also have a dog, and now I miss him terribly.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Four)
It’s 01.14. I’ll wrap this up.
SENTIMENTAL PERSONAL NOTE (Part Five)
Writers’ Bloc has been one of the greatest influences in my life, however hyperbolic that sounds. Former and present committee members should be proud of everything that this once small and badly named society has achieved.
HISTORY (Part Two)
Said former bad name was not actually the fault of any past or present Writers’ Bloc committee members. A Creative Writing society existed before Writers’ Bloc’s founding father Sean Colletti took control and thankfully revamped it.
SENTIMENTAL PERSONAL NOTE (Part Five and a Half)
I wish the new Writers’ Bloc committee all the luck for the future. I also threaten you with the promise of my return should you mess things up. You’ve got it good here, and I bet you can make it even better.
Seriously, that threat is real. My parents don’t live far from Birmingham.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Five)
I will end this review with an overall, over-generalised review of all poetry nights:
REASONS YOU SHOULDN’T GO TO POETRY OPEN MIC NIGHTS
1) You don’t like poetry.
(Seriously, what are you even doing here? Why are you reading this review if you don’t like poetry? You must like it a little bit. Read the next list.)
REASONS YOU SHOULD GO TO POETRY OPEN MIC NIGHTS (Part One)
1) You’ll get in touch with your emotions. Bohdan Piasecki does a wonderful crowd warm-up at the beginning of Hit The Ode in which you exercise your emotions. This is basically what every poetry open mic night does. Sometimes you leave thinking that you might actually have a soul.
2) You’ll see some incredibly talented people perform. Sometimes you talk to them afterwards and realise that they’re interesting and lovely as well.
3) Poetry isn’t elitist.
4) Sometimes they go on for hours so you get to drink more than usual (and on a school night!).
5) Occasionally, they’ll be a really great headliner and you’ll think, ‘Wow! I would have paid £590453894 to see them at a festival, and that only cost me £5!’
Not all festival tickets cost £590453894.
Not all poetry nights cost £5.
REASONS YOU SHOULD GO TO POETRY OPEN MIC NIGHTS (Part One and a Half)
6) You might just see the next big thing in poetry in the early stages of their career.
7) Poetry/ rhyme/ rap/ isn’t (and you aren’t) dead.
8) Sometimes you’re allowed to review these things; you get free entry and to write two-thousand words that people might actually read.
9) People actually listen to you at these things.
10) You love poetry.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Six)
It’s 01.41. Time for one last
SENTIMENTAL PERSONAL NOTE (Part Six)
I have loved Grizzly Pear, and I have loved Writers’ Bloc. To everyone who has listened to my poems and read my reviews: thank you. To all who have made me laugh, cry and feel human: you are wonderful people. This Grizzly Pear was the perfect way to end three years, and I am certain I will feel its absence once I have graduated.
TONIGHT/ THIS MORNING (Part Seven)
It’s 01.44. I’ll hand you over to Oli Clifford, who will be providing you with a review of Dizraeli’s headline set. I’m sure his review will be considerably less ridiculous.
By Jenna Clake