An Evening of Poetry: with Romany poet Raine Geoghegan and friends.


On Friday 22nd February (2019), as part of Bookfest, the spoken word group T’Articulation put on An Evening of Poetry: an event at, The Menuhin Theatre, Portsmouth Central Library featuring Romany Poet Raine Geoghegan and friends. Raine is an up and coming poet with her first publication, Apple Water: Povel Panni, taking her around the UK as a guest speaker. She has also been published in many digital and print anthologies, in the past two years. In our event, as in others, she spoke about her heritage and gave readings from her wonderful writing that captures bygone days – recording them for posterity.

On the evening Raine was ably interviewed by the lovely Eileen Phyall and sang two of her own songs accompanied by her husband, Simon, on the guitar. Vin Adams, another group member, then ‘kept order’ while Raine and our most excellent Portsmouth poets, Denise Bennett, Richard Peirce, Gareth Toms and Richard Williams, read works based on the themes: Nature, Food, Travel and Family. The poems ranged from the thought provoking, to the funny, to the poignant and went down well with our discerning audience.

After a break, where the fabulous Jo West sold books on poetry and the four themes, including a number by our poets, Richard Peirce offered us two poems accompanied by Chris Collier on ukelele. Chris had also played us in with an impromptu overture. Vin continued as host, shepherding our poets as they commented on poems submitted by the audience and then spoke of their own writing practices.

It was a fabulous and intimate evening, which received great feedback. In my capacity as Portsmouth City Council Library and Archive Service: Poet in Residence*, introducing proceedings, I thought it appropriate to include poetry I’d written from archival research. I’ve written several such pieces but decided only to perform one as the focus was on other more established local poets and, an unfortunately late start meant, there was little time to spare. I include that poem below and one other – written with reference to my own Romany heritage. I’ll post others in a further blog entry, next week.

Apart from Raine, who has now appeared as our guest on two occasions, all performers are part of Portsmouth’s spoken word troupe T’Articulation. Look out for us in various guises at local festivals. We’d love to see you in our audience or perhaps you’d like to perform at one of our open mic events.

Thanks, too, to Jade, Lindy and Simon the library staff who facilitated the evening. And we shouldn’t forget our general helpmeets and door ‘persons’ Jackie Green and Mike Phyall, without whose steady help we’d get nowhere fast.

*Generously funded by ACE (Arts’ Council, England)


Squailing or Snogging?

Heft the weight of the ball of the squail:
a fifteen inch stick with some play in the length.
Does it have the strength
to kill squirrel?

Consider the sprint of the target
the height and the range of the reach.
Can an accurate lob knock the day
from the bushy tailed prey
and give you something to eat?

Can a throw of some kind
brought from behind
incise the gaps in the trees?

Can it render it dead
with a knock on the head,
or should you choose snogging instead?

The snogg’s near the same
with more accurate aim
and a stouter shaft to the tool.

It’s not quite so long
but you need to be strong
as it’s tipped with a plumb-lead ferrule.

Thrown through the air
with an art and a skill
it kisses the creature
to bring down the kill.

A good squirrel pie is a treat when it’s shared
round the fire at the edge of the wood.
The killing’s a craft, seen on rare winter days,
and the proceeds are lip-smacking good.

AG  (February 2019)

Squirrel killing, a custom of The New Forest (likely derived from Romani practice) Hampshire: The County Magazine, Dec. 1967 (p.36)

I’d like it noted at this point, I have been a pescatarian for nearly forty years and cannot imagine eating, let alone killing, squirrels. Yet in my early childhood I ate many things not found in most households. I don’t think squirrel was among them.

~ ~

The following poem is a framed sestina and is written about my own grandmother, who kept a cauldron by her back door and, along with her sister was known to make tinctures and other remedies.

When Granny made her Salves

When Granny made her salves
from fibrous juices of earth-hidden root,
boiled to a thickening with barley or maize,
scooped from the pot where it was contained,
she served the gorjas that came.
They beat outside their bounds, in a succession of days,
offering exchange for pain-ridding herbs –
when Granny made her salves.

When Granny made her salves
she stirred the steeping pots of herbs.
But we did not learn the roots
of knowledge and remained amazed
as heavy bottomed pots of liquid came

to pungent roil; the magic of their potency contained
only in her head which recalled days
a prior Granny made her salves

When Granny made her salves
we were transported to the days
of her past when she was sent for wild herbs.

She dug raw roots,
gathering blossom of elder trees, and mays,
before rains came
and rid them of the nature they contained.
So Granny’s granny made her salves.

When Granny made her salves
they contained an echoing of days
her tale told in herbs; the family roots
all chavs. The chais, sweetly became
grannies who, in turn, made their salves

until their daughters made ourselves.
Now, no Grannies make their salves.

AG (February 2019)

Amanda Garrie
Poet in Residence (2019):
Portsmouth City Council Library and Archive Service.

~ ~

Artwork completed for the Bookfest event An Evening of Poetry: Raine Geoghegan and Friends.


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