SWB wonders if Mercury’s in retrograde

It’s been a funny week. We’ve bounced our sickness back and forth, feeling awful one moment and not quite so shit the next. There have been events throughout which I haven’t wanted to miss, but everything I’ve been to or seen has been shot through with a weird vein of imperfection. Perhaps, as my yoga teacher says, ‘Mercury’s in retrograde’ which seems to interfere with everything, particularly technical stuff, but there’s been an edginess to the week, as though at any moment things could disintegrate into madness.


On Wednesday I went to the Limelight to see the band Superorganism. I took a friend because poor LSB was out of sorts. I felt sprightly enough to go, but I have to admit, after hearing a few tunes by the support band, I wilted.  I’d been looking forward to the gig but my enthusiasm started to wane. Then on came Superorganism, with a stage backlit by wild, psychedelic flowers and I perked up. I was jigging away merrily when suddenly the sound died and their visuals disappeared. It’s an 8 piece band, but it was their lead singer, a teensy weensy Japanese girl, who took control. But one cartwheel across the stage wasn’t going to cut it. I was tired, and I wanted to go home. My friend works in Newry and I thought she’d prefer to head too, but ‘Cool your jets,’ she said, ‘It’s only been a few minutes.’ Then a chap up at the front volunteered his services as a human beat box, and the lead singer rapped along. They were fabulous, and when the sound returned and they did the rest of their set to rapturous applause. My friend met some former students who greeted her with huge hugs and I met the lovely Emer Maguire, (who I’m sure now thinks I’m stalking her.) It was all most convivial and I left with a sense of gratitude that the audience had been so big-hearted and generous.


Things went a bit pear-shaped again on Friday night, when the performance poet Tony Walsh did a show over at the Strand Cinema in Belmont. It was a BYO event, and I imagined small groups of us gathered around tables with flickering candles, as though we were in Montmartre awaiting Aristide Bruant. But instead we filed into the aisles in screen 4, and up Tony bounded onto the stage like a n excitable golden retriever. His quick-fire delivery can leave you trying to keep up, especially if you’ve a cold and your head feels like it’s full of mushy mashed potato, but despite my lurgy, I loved it. Words flew like sparks. His poem ‘Coming Home,’ gave me such goose bumps that I felt the stubble on my legs pierce through my tights. He read about broken relationships, about death, about those left adrift and uncared for by cruel government cuts. They resonated with us. Well, most of us. There were a few in the audience who seemed unaware of the etiquette at a poetry event. They chatted, loudly; they sloshed wine into cups and through their noisiness they disrupted the energy and the flow of the recital.


But Tony read on. Beautifully. In his poetry there is pluck and fearlessness and defiance. He peppers his poems with profanities; he doesn’t shy away from life’s ugliness and absurdities. On that stage he personified all the vulnerability and pain of the human condition.


Had he wanted, he could have shot down the raucous listeners with a few sharp lines of invective. He didn’t, and in many ways their presence made the experience more powerful. Life isn’t perfect. It is pretty shite at times and we just blatter on, finding what jewels we can within the mire and holding on damn tight to them.


Maybe these guys just didn’t know the craic. But they were still there, at a poetry recital, and perhaps the rhythm and the wonder and the rhyme will stay with them, and I hope it does. For me, it was irksome, and I wish he could have read in peace. I felt uncomfortable. But in the highly charged atmosphere it made the need for poetry more pronounced. I expected the crowd to leave in the interval, but they come back. Clearly they needed poetry too.

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