Yes We Cant is Two Years Old

It seems only yesterday that we sat in a pub over a beer or three (or four) and had the bright idea of setting up a regular poetry night in Walsall, and to be honest we’re not entirely sure where the time’s gone. But this month, Yes We Cant is two years old.

That’s two years of bringing top-notch poetry and spoken word to our part of the Black Country, and it’s all been done without any kind of funding. What’s more, we took the conscious decision that Yes We Cant (like so many of the nights we put on) would be a pay-as-you-feel event, so that anyone could turn up, take a seat, and give poetry a try.

It’s not only worked, it’s worked splendidly. We’ve brought poets like Johnny Fluffypunk, Brenda Read-Brown, and Elvis McGonagall to the function room of a real ale pub (who’ve supported what we’re doing from day one, thanks) and packed that room out. We’ve had excellent support slots from poets as diverse as Nellie Cole, Casey Bailey, and Paul Francis, all with books to sell. We’ve given a platform to a huge number of local poets who’ve stepped up behind the mic for the first time at Yes We Cant, got bitten by the performance bug, and come back again and again and again.

And now, we are two. This Sunday we’ll be celebrating as only the pandemonialists can. So come along to the Pretty Bricks for another night of great entertainment, for inclusive, exciting, top-notch word wizardry. Our headliner will be the effervescent Joe Cook, while Graham Attenborough travels in from Shrewsbury to take the ‘Alf Ender slot. If you’ve never been before, drop in, we’d love to see you. All of you are welcome. Again and again and again.

The Curse of the Duck Whistle

The Curse of the Duck Whistle

Traditionally it is the crow which is seen as a harbinger of evil. Yet in Audlem on Thursday night they weren’t dark “goth eyeliner” feathers of a crow. No, they were the brown, teal and white of “kid with new pack of felt pens” duck plumage. Evil came to Audlem. And it was the sound of a duck.

Quack.

Yes, Thursday was The Audlem Festival poetry slam. Yes, I had to do the timings. Yes I had to blow the duck whistle when 3 minutes had expired. A honk which signified to everyone in the room that time was up. Maybe the poet has gone too slow. Or an introduction had gone on a bit too long. Or… the audience had responded to a part of the poem slowing the act down, eating precious seconds like a time hungry Pac-Man trapped in a maze of clocks being chased by the ghosts of a single pause for breath. Pac-Man’s inevitable death not being punctuated by a descending series of notes but by a single blow on a duck whistle.

Quack.

Yes Slams can be fun. Yes they can bring poetry to new audiences.

But they can also be cruel. 

And I was the servant of cruelty. I had to blow that duck whistle more than it had ever been blown before. In all our slams we have maybe one or two which go over. It happens. But we’ve never had so many go over as we did on Thursday. As I exhaled breath into that duck whistle every time the clock expired a part of me died. So much of me died I’m now a husk of a poet. A delicate shell cocooning rotten flesh. I await the gentle touch from a caring person which will then shatter me into a million pieces firing chunks of viscera over nearby walls thereby ending my misery. I love performance poetry but I am a slave to the clock. 

Quack.

So many went over that after the fourth I genuinely started thinking my iPad was running fast. This is something I’d fully expect Apple to do. “No,” someone would say while wearing jeans and a sports jacket, “running fast isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. It’s a way to get more done. It’s Apple Time.” I laid my Android phone next to the iPad and started the stopwatch on both devices together. These technological behemoths flashed in sync. Counting down the seconds until, yet again, I would have to blow that infernal whistle. 

Quack.

It’s not even a quack sound. It’s more a honk of nasal fizziness and disappointment. 

I’m not even a fan of ducks. Ducks are sneaky bleeders. All “look at me being calm” while under the surface they are panicking and swimming like crazy. Like your neighbour who looks happy with his new Jaguar on the drive but you know they can’t afford it on their wage. Ducks are your debt ridden neighbour putting up a pretence of financial stability. We can’t compete with ducks.

And I suppose the lesson here is… nor should we. 

3 minutes. Let’s keep it at that and let’s keep the ducks silent. 

Quack.

Dave Pitt
27th May 2019
Moribund

The Saboteurs

Congratulations to all the winners of last weekend’s Saboteur Awards, and especially to all our friends who received an award or were on the shortlist for their genre. We know how much hard work you put into what you do and how passionate you are about it, and what a boost to morale it is to get a little recognition for all you’ve done. Whether you won or not, we hope being considered for these awards is a stepping stone to greater things, and that you’ve a spring in your step this morning and for weeks to come!

Awards, by their nature, can only turn their spotlight on a handful of individuals and organisations. So here’s a shout-out to all the people putting their heart and soul into keeping poetry and spoken word alive and kicking in the unsung towns and cities round the country. A shout-out to the wonderful nights we’ve been to in Doncaster, Morecambe, New Mills, Welshpool, Banbury, Leeds, Hull, and more. A shout-out to the audiences who support those nights, because without you we’re nothing. Poetry and spoken word has always been – and always will be, in our book – a wonderfully democratic art form, where everyone can make their voice heard, can share what matters to them, can listen to what matters to others.

So, whatever part you play in this poetry community, here’s an imaginary gold star from the pandemonialists to say Thank you. Pin it on your frock, your shirt, your dungarees, or hang it from your ear. Whatever takes your fancy, but wear it with pride! We’ll hope to see you at a poetry gig somewhere, very soon.

Cheers!

Busy

Oops. Almost the end of April, and we’ve just realised we haven’t written a blog for ages. Sorry about that. We’ve been busy. Yes, there’s the usual stuff – our fantastic Yes We Cant poetry night in Walsall, the wonderful Home & Away in Wolverhampton, and our own individual poetry gigs out and about round the country – but we’ve also got a couple of other projects on the go. Big ones. Exciting ones.

Thing is, we can’t really talk about those just yet. But that’s why we haven’t been typing blogs like this one for a while, and why this one is a little bit hasty, a little bit rushed. You know how it is – our ‘to-do’ list is monstrous at the moment, and – well, we’ve got to go. It’s about to eat the sofa.

See you soon at a poetry evening somewhere*, we hope!

*Walsall on May 5th, for example.

Talent Match – Poetry Journey

Just before Christmas the Pandemonialists ran a workshop for Gazebo Theatre. It involved young people on their Talent Match programme being given some advice in writing and performing. The clients produced poems and spoken word at an incredibly high level and their final performance was inspiring, hilarious and heartfelt. We are so proud to have been part of this journey and eternally grateful to Gazebo Theatre for the opportunity.

The video below was produced of the journey and features two of us pandemonialists waxing lyrical and eating porridge.

Thanks For All The Fish

Saturday December 29th, and it’s time for Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists to settle down with our collective mug of cocoa and reflect on what we got up to in 2018. It’s fair to say we’ve had a blast, right from the first moment of the Wolves Lit Fest slam back in January through to our pop-up bookshop in Light House just a few days before Xmas.

We are absolutely passionate (when we’re not sitting around with our feet up, drinking cocoa) about taking poetry out to new places, and bringing new people to poetry, and this year we’ve done plenty of both. Our Black Country Broadsheet brought together some of the best performance poets in our region, and took poems and videos out into pubs and clubs, to hairdressers and tattoo shops. We continued to bring top-notch headline poets to our Walsall night Yes We Cant (where we rounded off the year with The Antipoet – one of the nation’s most outrageously talented and hilarious poetic acts) and we set up a quarterly event, Home & Away, at the Light House in Wolverhampton to create a brand-new platform for more voices who weren’t getting heard elsewhere.

When we weren’t busy with all that, we found time to take our Edinburgh show (yes, it was longlisted for a Saboteur Award, and our thanks to all those who nominated us) to venues round the country from Morecambe to Whitchurch to Frome. On top of that, we each fitted in gigs of our own – because we do have lives away from PPP – and Emma had a new collection launched, Steve co-wrote a punk autobiography, and Dave wrote a couple of plays. This autumn, we created the Mappa Mundi Poetica to highlight all the wonderful poets and poetry events across our region. And then, in case all that hadn’t been enough, we unleashed the ‘poet’ T-shirt on the world. As of now, it’s raising the profile of poets and poetry in about seventy different locations, in a range of sizes and colours. This makes us happy. Very happy.

Thanks, 2018. We’ve been busy, we’ve had fun, we’ve made new friends and we’ve heard new poetry voices. Perfect. Our thanks to each and every one of you for all your support, because we couldn’t do it without you. More of the same next year, please.

Happy new year from PPP!

2nd Shrewsbury Literature Festival Slam

The high point in any poet’s calendar is a Poetry Slam hosted by Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists. 15 poets going head to head in a wild, fast moving, high energy competition. On 24th November, Purshouse and Pitt will be hosting the 2nd Shrewsbury Literature Festival Slam. Battle commences at 4pm in The Hive. Anyone who has seen a PPP slam will know how wonderful they are so get your tickets while they are still available.

Details

Date and Time: Saturday 24th November 2018. 4pm – 6.30pm

Venue: The Hive, 5 Belmont Street, Shrewsbury. SY1 1TE.

Cost: £8 (£5 concessions)

Final Performance Workshop

On Sunday 4th November we will be holding our final performance workshop. These free workshops, funded by Creative Black Country, help you to develop performance and microphone techniques. This gives your poems the best possible chance to shine when you are on stage. The two previous workshops have received excellent feedback from participants.

Sadly, this final workshop is full but if you want to be placed on the reserve list then please let us know but emailing us or by hitting us up on Twitter. It will take place at The Pretty Bricks in Walsall between 4pm and 6pm. Participants are then invited to stick around for Yes, We Cant that evening where they will be given a chance to try their new skills in one of our open mic slots.

Details

Date and Time: Sunday 4th November 2018. 4pm – 6pm

Venue: The Pretty Bricks, 5 John Street, Walsall. WS2 8AF

Cost: Free (Reserve spots available)

Mappa Mundi Poetica

We’ve always been passionate about the West Midlands and inspired by the energy, drive,  and imagination of the people who live here. And we love being inspired by others, too.

So when we saw Scott Tyrrell’s beautifully-drawn map of poets on the UK spoken word scene, we were truly gobsmacked. We also knew it couldn’t possibly begin to reflect the wealth of activity and talent which is to be found here in the heart of the country. So we decided we’d create a map which showed that talent, a map which would include page poets and poetry activists and poetry nights as well as what’s happening in spoken word.

One month later, after a lot of work, our Mappa Mundi is ready, a resource for anyone who wants an overview of poetry activity in our region. You’ll find events to go to, and poets to watch out for. You’ll also find that the map is still – and always will be – a work in progress. Although we know a lot, we don’t know everyone or everything that’s going on. And poets are busy people, which means some of the ones we contacted haven’t replied yet. The beauty of our map is that it can change and evolve, so if a new night springs up, or another one closes its doors, or a local poet gets a book deal with Bloodaxe or Verve, the map can reflect that.

With a nod to history, and our tongue in our cheek, we decided to call this the Mappa Mundi Poetica Westus Midlandius. We know the latin is probably wrong, but that’s half the fun. The wonderful cover image – a masterpiece created by Midlands artist Catherine Pascall Moore – harks back to the original mappa mundi, but with a very modern twist. We hope you enjoy it, and that you find poets you know as well as ones whose work you hadn’t heard of.

The map is now ready to share. You’ll find it here: https://www.pandemonialists.co.uk/mappa-mundi/

P.S. Like we said, the latin’s probably wrong. But just look how enjoyable getting latin wrong can be: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIAdHEwiAy8

New Poetry and Storytelling Open Mic

On 30th October 2018 Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists will be hosting a new poetry and storytelling night at The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton. It starts at 7.30pm and slots are between 5 and 10 minutes long.

Of course, being a PPP event it won’t be a standard open mic and a certain degree of craziness will also be going on. This is your chance to try things out in a safe space and stretch those creative tendons without fear of anything snapping.

If you want a slot or more information then please email our very own Mr Pitt who will be taking a grip on proceedings.

Details

Date and Time: 30th October 2018. 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Venue: Arena Theatre, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton. WV1 1SE

Cost: Free