Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Review: The Empathy Experiment (Rose Condo, GM Fringe)

Wednesday 10th July 2019
Studio, King’s Arms, Salford

As you’ve probably twigged from my recent series of blog posts, the 2019 Greater Manchester Fringe runs throughout July. I’m reviewing a selection of shows from this year’s festival programme for this blog and for North Manchester FM, and the next show on my list is The Empathy Experiment in the Studio at the King’s Arms in Salford on Wednesday 10th July. You can hear the radio version of this review on Saturday’s Hannah’s Bookshelf, but here’s the blog version…


The Empathy Experiment is a one-woman show written and directed by Rose Condo (with dramaturgy by Dominic Berry) about our relationship with our smartphones and mobile devices. Told through poetry and spoken word performance, The Empathy Experiment is constructed around a simple conceit: Condo has decided to give up using her smartphone for a full 24 hours in order to see if this increases her empathy levels. Now, in the final hour of the experiment, she is ready to share her findings with the audience.

The show is presented as a sort-of lecture, signalled by Condo donning a white lab coat and using title cards to announce the stages of her investigation. I say ‘sort-of lecture’, though, as the style and tone of presentation are somewhat at odds with the ‘science part’ of the content. While Condo provides some research to back up her assertions about empathy and compassion – quoting from both studies and more populist books – there is an intimacy and urgency to Condo’s delivery that makes the show feel more like a conversation with, rather than an address to, the audience.

The show combines some – surely widely relatable! – poetry about everyday smartphone addiction, including an absorbing and descriptive piece about accidentally falling into a scrolling binge late at night, with chatty musings on the nature of empathy and the way we relate to other people. Both the poetry and the running monologue are eloquent, lightly comedic and engaging throughout, though there is a bit of bite to some of the commentary on the declining quality of human interaction. Nevertheless, there is no direct target to Condo’s light-touch ire. Instead, she creates a sense of complicity through the relatability of her words: we all do this, so we’re all to blame.

The Empathy Experiment works on two levels. On the one hand, the audience are presented with some thought-provoking facts and studies about the ostensible decline in empathy, and the connection this may have to smartphone use, and with responses to an anonymous survey Condo conducted beforehand. Some of this is not really surprising, but it serves the purpose of encouraging reflection and reassessment of certain aspects of the modern world that we have come (in a few short years) to take for granted. (And a poetic piece about Facebook really underlines the speed at which these changes have occurred.) It’s the sort of factual presentation that doesn’t so much teach you something new, but rather reminds you of something you’d forgotten you already knew – like, for instance, the fact that very few people primarily use their smartphone as a phone.

However, on the other hand – and more powerfully – the show works to create an actual empathetic response from its audience through its delivery style. I found that, although I was thinking a lot while watching The Empathy Experiment, I was feeling something too.


Condo states up-front that she is a ‘friendly’ person (noting that this is because she’s Canadian), and ‘friendliness’ is a vibe that undoubtedly permeates The Empathy Experiment. In the small space of the King’s Arms Studio, the audience feels very close to Condo – and to one another. She is seated on the stage area when the audience arrives, apparently patiently waiting for them and preparing herself for the performance. When the show proper begins, she makes expert use of silence and stillness at key moments, and frequently makes direct and smiling eye contact with audience members. This style creates a warmth and familiarity that encourages a strong feeling of connection between performer and audience.

Part way through the show, Condo brings someone onto the stage with (though this isn’t really an audience participation show) for a mini-experiment based on the metaphor of ‘walking in someone else’s shoes’. Slowing the pace right down, this exchange has an incredible softness and gentleness to it, which I found really rather moving.

I don’t know if it was the research on empathy that Condo presented, or the effect of the show’s style and delivery, or just a heightening of innate compassionate responses, but I did feel a strong emotional response to some parts of the show. In particular, there’s a point towards the end when Condo reveals the outcome of her experiment, but also a realization about some of its implications, and I genuinely – just for a minute – felt the pain she was describing.

Of course, the fact that I had this feeling is all credit to the careful and deliberate pacing of the show’s script, as well as Condo’s sensitive and expressive performance. The Empathy Experiment is a very well-crafted show, and it’s really quite clever in the way it elicits an emotional response from its audience.

Overall, The Empathy Experiment is a charming, thought-provoking and clever production, which draws on Condo’s skills as a poet and spoken word performer to create a very enjoyable hour of entertainment. I will admit, I did turn my phone back on when the show finished, but I’ll also admit it was nice to briefly be without it.

The Empathy Experiment had a short (and sold out) run at the Greater Manchester Fringe, but it will be on at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. If you get chance to check out the show in Edinburgh, it’s a definite recommendation from me.

The Empathy Experiment was on at The King’s Arms on the 10th and 11th July, as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe, and it will be performed in August at The Banshee Labyrinth, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. To see the full programme for this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe, visit the festival website.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Performers Wanted for Live Poetry Special


Want to perform your poetry on the radio?

On Saturday 23rd February, Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM will be hosting a live poetry special. I’d like to invite poets and spoken word performers to come along and perform their work on the show.

The Hannah’s Bookshelf Live Poetry Special will be going out live from the studio in Harpurhey, North Manchester at 2-4pm. It will be broadcast on 106.6FM (in the North Manchester area) and online (for the rest of the world). Performance slots are 6 minutes long.

Whether you’re a veteran performer or new to reading your work, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line via email, tweet me or message me on Facebook if you’d like to perform. Slots will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Review: The Love Calculator (Rosa Wright, GM Fringe)

Thursday 5th July 2018
Gullivers, Oldham Street


This is the second show I saw at this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe. And the second one to bring a tear to my eye! (Wonder if this is going to be a theme this year…)


The Love Calculator is a one-woman show, combining poetry, comedy and song in an exploration of dating and relationships. The show’s premise and blurb promise to reveal the formula for true love – but this is only a small part of the show. Writer and performer Rosa Wright takes us through a series of stories and vignettes taken from previous relationships, some funny, some sad and some unexpectedly very moving.

The ‘Love Calculator’ element of the show is fairly straightforward, and I’m sure most people (or, maybe, most women) will recognize the formula immediately. The show’s real conceit is the bingo card/jukebox set-up that follows on from the calculations. Each audience member is given a card and encouraged to shout out numbers (first person to get one line got a prize). In response, Wright performs the piece that corresponds to the selected number, resulting in a non-chronological medley of songs and poems that jump back and forth, from a hook-up at a wedding, to a childhood crush, to a recent break-up.

Tonally, the pieces move from sad, to bitter, to joyful, to soppy, to angry – all the while held together with sardonic commentary from Wright. The overall effect is not a linear narrative, but a jumble of experiences (some good, some indifferent, some really bad) that have somehow led to this point. And isn’t that kind of what life (or dating) is?

I can’t work out whether or not I fell into a bit of a trap during the show. After it was over, I told Wright that I’d been surprised to find we’d had a lot of the same experiences. Bit of a rookie mistake, and you’d think I’d know better by now! The stories behind The Love Calculator often unfold through hints and suggestions – Wright makes a lot of use of sensory description and evocative imagery (a finger running across a plate to mop up salt-and-vinegar crisp crumbs, for instance) – and so some pieces are deceptively specific. I certainly felt like I could identify with a lot of the material, but in the cold light of day I realise that a lot of the audience probably felt exactly the same! It’s testament to Wright’s performance style – always seeming like she’s accidentally oversharing, continually asking the audience ‘It’s not just me, is it?’ – that I kept thinking ‘This song is totally about me!’

That said, the story about dating an older guy who was in a doom metal band? Awfully similar to dating an older guy from a Goth rock band, isn’t it?


I think it’s also worth saying that the performance I saw was interrupted a couple of times by people mistakenly stumbling in looking for the show upstairs. Gullivers has two performance spaces, and Wright’s show was on in the smaller room downstairs – meaning that people coming in and loudly asking whether they’re in the right place can be heard easily on the stage area. Now, I don’t know exactly what show was on upstairs, but there was something kind of surreal about people loudly wandering in and asking a Northern lass on a ukulele if she was Simon and Garfunkel. Wright handled these interruptions with good grace and humour, even giving a very short burst of ‘Scarborough Fair’ to appease.

Overall, The Love Calculator is a very enjoyable show. The bittersweet music and poetry work well together, the performance style is charming, and the arrangement of pieces is very effective. It’s laugh-out-loud in places, tear-jerking in others, and with just enough TMI to have you cringing in places.

(Oh, and it was the poem about the first childhood crush that made me cry, in case you were curious.)

Monday, 12 February 2018

Performers Wanted for Live Poetry Special


On Saturday 17th March, Hannah's Bookshelf on North Manchester FM will be hosting a live poetry special. I'd like to invite poets and spoken word performers to come along and perform their work on the show.

The Hannah's Bookshelf Live Poetry Special will be going out live from the studio in Harpurhey, North Manchester at 2-4pm. It will be broadcast on 106.6FM (in the North Manchester area) and online (for the rest of the world). Performance slots are 6 minutes long.

Whether you're a veteran performer or new to reading your work, I'd love to hear from you. Drop me a line via email, Twitter or Facebook if you'd like to perform. Slots will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Please share this with anyone you think might be interested!

Friday, 18 January 2013

OUT NOW: Dark Chaucer: An Assortment (Punctum Books, 2012)

Edited by Myra Seaman, Eileen Joy and Nicola Masciandaro



A new title from open-access publisher, Punctum Books, Dark Chaucer: An Assortment is now available in both print and digital formats. The open-access eBook is available for free, and the paperback edition is priced at $15 - both are available direct from the publishers. If you download the eBook, please also consider making a donation to support the publishers in fostering and developing new and innovative scholarship.

About the book:

Although widely beloved for his playfulness and comic sensibility, Chaucer's poetry is also shot through with dark moments that open into obscure and irresolvably haunting vistas, passages into which one might fall head-first and never reach the abyssal bottom. Opting to dilate rather than cordon off this darkness, this volume assembles a variety of attempts to follow such moments into their folds of blackness and horror, to chart their endless sorrows and recursive gloom, and to take depth soundings in the darker recesses of the Chaucerian lakes in order to bring back palm- or bite-sized pieces (black jewels) of bitter Chaucer that could be shared with others... an assortment, if you will. Not that this collection finds only emptiness and non-meaning in these caves and lakes. You never know what you will discover in the dark.


Contents:

'and here we are as on a darkling plain' - Gary J. Shipley
'Dark Whiteness: Benjamin Brawley and Chaucer' - Candace Barrington
'Saturn's Darkness' - Brantley Bryant and Alia
'A Dark Stain and a Non-Encounter' - Ruth Evans
'Chaucerian Afterlives: Reception and Eschatology' - Gaelan Gilbert
'Black Gold: The Former (and Future) Age' - Leigh Harrison
'Half Dead: Parsing Cecelia' - Nicola Masciandaro
'In the Event of the Franklin's Tale' - J. Allan Mitchell
'Black as the Crow' - Travis Neal and Andrew Richmond
'Unravelling Constance' - Hannah Priest
'L'O de V: A Palimpsest' - Lisa Schamess
'Disconsolate Art' - Myra Seaman
'Kill Me, Save Me, Let Me Go: Custance, Virginia, Emelye' - Karl Steel
'The Physician's Tale as Hagioclasm' - Elaine Treharne
'The Light Has Lifted: Trickster Pandare' - Bob Valasek
'Suffer the Little Children, or, A Rumination on the Faith of Zombies' - Lisa Weston
'The Dark is Light Enough: The Layout of the Tale of Sir Thopas' - Thomas White

About the publisher:

Punctum Books is an open-access and print-on-demand independent publisher dedicated to radically creative modes of intellectual inquiry and writing across a whimsical para-humanities assemblage. For more information, please visit the Punctum Books website.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

OUT NOW: Variant Spelling Kindle Edition

And also at long last... my debut poetry collection is now available on Kindle (UK and US)

I sigh, but it’s not from frustration
But because I think that you’ve forgotten
that sometimes punctuation
just reminds us when to breathe.




Hannah Kate is a North Manchester-based poet, author and editor. Her work has appeared in a number of local and national magazines, as well as an anthology published by Crocus Books. She is a freelance teacher of English, Maths and Creative Writing, and reviews genre fiction and academic writing for a number of organizations. This is her first full-length collection of poetry.

“Delicate and strong, Hannah’s words beautifully communicate the impossibilities of communication. She explores the subtexts of what we do with our language in ways that will resonate with anyone who finds their own feelings and intents too big for semi colons.”
Dominic Berry, Poet

“The poems in Variant Spelling evoke a North in revolt; a place of abandoned dyeworks, soot, winter, granite and grease. Through the ‘shifting vowels’ of the title poem they celebrate a world at odds with the imposed culture of the South. It is at its most rebellious in Praise God, where Hannah ‘praises the God of the North’, a place where the ‘air hangs with burning witches’.”
Rosie Lugosi, Poet and Performer

For more information, please visit the Hic Dragones website.

To order, visit Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Monday, 23 January 2012

OUT NOW: Variant Spelling by Hannah Kate

My debut poetry collection is now available from Hic Dragones and Amazon, priced £6.99.

Here's what the publisher has to say about me:

Hannah Kate is a North Manchester-based poet, author and editor. Her work has appeared in a number of local and national magazines, as well as an anthology published by Crocus Books. She is a freelance teacher of English, Maths and Creative Writing, and reviews genre fiction and academic writing for a number of organizations. This is her first full-length collection of poetry.

And here's what the blurbs say:

“Delicate and strong, Hannah’s words beautifully communicate the impossibilities of communication. She explores the subtexts of what we do with our language in ways that will resonate with anyone who finds their own feelings and intents too big for semi colons.” Dominic Berry, Poet

“The poems in Variant Spelling evoke a North in revolt; a place of abandoned dyeworks, soot, winter, granite and grease. Through the ‘shifting vowels’ of the title poem they celebrate a world at odds with the imposed culture of the South. It is at its most rebellious in Praise God, where Hannah ‘praises the God of the North’, a place where the ‘air hangs with burning witches’.” Rosie Lugosi, Poet and Performer

I've blogged about the collection on my creative blog, and there's a sample poem up there. But here's another one - hope you enjoy!

Sir Ywain

On the wood on the bracket
of a cathedral seat,
there’s a picture of a knight
dressed for battle.

On second thoughts

he looks as if he’s already been fighting
for a long, long time.
He looks like he’s wounded his foe.

But the knight isn’t going to win this one,
because a portcullis has fallen,
missing his body
but carving his horse in half.

Poor knight.

Without a horse he won’t be able to fight.
Without a fight he won’t be able to win.
It looks like
he’s going to lose this battle.

But then again

the picture of the knight
on the wood on the bracket
of a cathedral seat
is just a picture of a man
sitting on half a horse.

Variant Spelling is available now, from Hic Dragones.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Steam King

Recently, I've been working as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant on a project involving searching databases of nineteenth-century newspapers. Though it has nothing to do with the project, I've become quite enamored with the following poem by Edward P. Mead, which was originally published in The Northern Star and reprinted in Engels' Conditions of the Working Class in England. I was also pleased to see it discussed in a recent conference paper, at the De Montfort The Monster Inside Us, The Monsters Around Us conference.

If you're interested in the industrial revolution, and the ways in which some people of the time viewed it, or if you're a steampunk writer or fan, I think you'll enjoy...


The Steam King by Edward P. Mead
Originally published in The Northern Star, and Leeds General Advertiser (vol. 6, February 1843); reproduced in Engels, Conditions of the Working Class in England (1845)

There is a King, and a ruthless King;
Not a King of the poet’s dream;
But a tyrant fell, white slaves know well,
And that ruthless King is Steam.

He hath an arm, an iron arm,
And tho’ he hath but one,
In that mighty arm there is a charm,
That millions hath undone.

Like the ancient Moloch grim, his sire
In Himmon’s vale that stood,
His bowels are of living fire,
And children are his food.

His priesthood are a hungry band,
Blood-thirsty, proud, and bold;
’Tis they direct his giant hand,
In turning blood to gold.

For filthy gain in their servile chain
All nature’s rights they bind;
They mock at lovely woman’s pain,
And to manly tears are blind.

The sighs and groans of Labour’s sons
Are music in their ear,
And the skeleton shades, of lads and maids,
In the Steam King’s hell appear.

Those hells upon earth, since the Steam King’s birth,
Have scatter’d around despair;
For the human mind for Heav’n design’d,
With the body, is murdered there.

Then down with the King, the Moloch King,
Ye working millions all;
O chain his hand, or our native land
Is destin’d by him to fall.

And his Satraps abhor’d, each proud Mill Lord,
Now gorg’d with gold and blood,
Must be put down by the nation’s frown,
As well as their monster God.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Poetry Collection and Launch: After All Tomorrow's After Parties

A good friend of mine, Michael Wilson, has asked me to mention his upcoming collection of poetry - After All Tomorrow's After Parties - which is being launched this Monday (4th October) in Manchester.


My book launch will be on Monday October 4th. I'll be reading from my first book "After All Tomorrows After Parties" brought out by Knives Forks and Spoons Press as well as a selection of other poems. I'll also be performing a number of poems using sign language to promote disability awareness, create a second narrative and meddle with the 4th wall. It promises to be a top evening of poetry with sets from the cream of Manchester poetry: the nationally renowned names of Gerry Potter, Tony Walsh and John G Hall and sweet acoustic jazz from Rob Plow and Steve Brady that sounds like music to fall in love to. It all takes place at the lovely Fuel Bar Cafe in Withington M20 4AN. It starts 8pm until 11pm and it's a free event.

The book will be available from October 4th from the Knives Forks and Spoons Press website, and Amazon or ordered from any bookshop in the UK or available from myself at various gigs in the North West and beyond.

I've found my home in Manchester and have been performing poetry for over five years now and guest slots at various events for about four years. Material comes from the tried and trusty subjects of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' dole but also extends to politics and mental health. I'm interested in raising awareness of disability so learned sign language and have been successful in slams, getting to the BBC Radio Four National Slam Final last year, as well as the Cheltenham National Slam Final the last two years running. I also combine poetry with art using lost property umbrellas to write my poetry onto in interesting designs, usually leaving them in city centres for people to find but also having them exhibited in Contact Theatre this year. Finally I am also part of the Islington Mill Art Academy, a self run, self organised art education group, which explores alternatives in art education, which this book is being brought out in association with.

The book as well as being brought out in association with the Art Academy is also being brought out in memory of a close friend of mine who died ten years ago, just as I was finishing my university degree. I thought it was important to keep his memory alive and this is my small part in this. This book has been given the blessing of the family.

And here's a sample of the poetry to be found in After All Tomorrow's After Parties:

An Ode to Autumn

So,
Deep down in yourself
Deep down in your coat
The autumn falls before your eyes
Smoke perspires from car exhausts
And the street sounds silent in your head
Watching the traffic find its way,
from safe inside the hem of a hood
The unlit cigarette burns a hole in your hand
As you take the world in,
A stage set street at a time

Now,
Your thoughts are wrapped up in pretty paper
Round numbers and letters and how they fit their clothing
In the wooliness of your mind
You had to train yourself to doublething
A single line when added to
Creates a picture you can just make out
In the dark horse sky
A sky that maps this world
All true invention pushed underfoot
The leaves
And all the deadness of past summer
Crushed underfoot

Then,
You hear a beating memory in your head
That from your past autumn never means you harm
The curled blur of street lights
Match the fuzziness in your logic
Walks with you
An elegant procession of thoughts that play to beat the band
A foresight that this winter won't bite too hard
Cause it knows its own mortality
A backlit sight that summer leaves a mark or two on your skin,
but won't do what it's told, it won't change your life,
this time around.

So,
You walk
Back to your home the rest of the world in front
The street smells of everything and nothing at once
While the moon makes its once sightly appearance
A smile like benevolent stupidity
A smile like a patriarch not a sister
A father for you to figure out your thoughts
And for this moment your happiness won't get away
The day comes back to you
In the soft grip of night
That Autumn holds its lover lightly
As it lets the summer leave you
Feeds you and clothes you in your own colours
The halfway secret shine of Autumn is held in the single change of a skin

Copyright 2010, Michael Wilson

Friday, 13 August 2010

Books We Like...

Rosie Garland, Things I Did While I Was Dead (Flapjack Press, 2010)


A powerful new collection of poetry by Rosie Garland (known to many as Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen). Garland moves between childhood, gender, sexuality, religious iconography, relationships, with characteristic flair and exuberance. The poems in this collection reveal a love of, and dexterity with, language that amuses and moves.

"I braid my hair in snakes with fingers sugar sticky.
Hang necklaces of breasts beneath my chin.
Turn women to butter, men to stone.
When I dance, the sky drops water, the earth moans."
(from 'Lilith')

"I take your hand, wait
for the magic: some old god's
shoulder turning over in the dirt;
a raven come to omen the stones;
a black dog flicker at the corner
of eyeshot."
(from 'The Promise of Ghosts')

A highly recommended collection. Rosie will also be taking part in the She-Wolf discussion panel on Wednesday 8th September 2010 - more details on this to follow.

See Flapjack Press for more details.