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Review: Lady Poets presents Queer Poets

Wed 19 Mar 2014 In: Performance View at Wayback View at NDHA

Lady Poets presents Queer Poets At the Dark Room, 18 March, 2014 For Christchurch Pride Week Lizzie warms up the audience If there's one thing guaranteed to conjure up dread in a gay man it's the prospect of a night of lesbian poetry. Taking a deep breath I settled into the second row of a packed St Asaph Street venue (getting there from Papanui reminded me that this city remains the world capital of orange cones) and prepared for the onslaught of Lady Poets presents Queer Poets night.. It was a truly wonderful onslaught. Warm-up act and MC Lizzie Tollemache got us loosened up with every trick in the book short of hammering a six inch nail into her face... oh, wait, she did actually do that... and infused us with her nuclear-powered energy. First up was poet and writer Rachael who, like those to follow, read a mix of her own and others' poetry. Starting out with a creepily tender but welcome gay male-oriented work ("Place your ring on my cock where it belongs") she delivered three sweet and lustful pieces that hushed us down and nicely set the tone. Kimberley Holmes Kimberley Holmes, poet and organiser of the event, resplendent in rainbow-coloured everything, took us into a darker place ("L is for Lithium" and "walk with me, the journey is what matters,") then through the potent mix of anger and despair that results from a bad break-up. Lines such as "If I punch you metaphorically it'll only hurt when you read it" and of trying so hard to see through the bullshit "you get bruises on your retinas" were at once violent and aching. But the over-arching theme was of putting the bitterness and aggression of broken relationships behind you: "Enough already!" In keeping with an event billed as poetry performance, Jayde Braxton, an accomplished actress, added spot-on dramatisation to her offerings. Her slowly uncoiling agitation created a stunned silence as the true meaning of "I'm his special little girl and he's my dad" became horribly clear, an exposition of incestual child abuse expressed by the victim. Thank goodness Braxton released the pent-up tension with a sweet and short little song: "People think they know me..." First-time performer Kim shared "the first poem I ever wrote," with its repeated riffs around the theme "I sat in the corner and cried... and no one noticed me..." in raw homage to loneliness and isolation. Then, bravely, she took us even deeper with a Heidi Walker piece reflecting on the medicalisation of intersexuality and the tragic consequences of surgical intervention. Difficult material, simply delivered with warmth and humanity, and beautifully pitched. Audrey Baldwin's approach to sex, lust, love and identity was forthright and personal and connected with all sexualities in the audience. "I am whatever I am, whenever I am it!" summed up an energetic determination not to be categorised, summarised, boxed, sealed and constrained. This was great stuff and, during a short break for refills, ciggies and chat I realised I was running short of time. What I had thought would be a short, bijou little event ("how many worthwhile lesbian poets can there be in Christchurch?" I had mistakenly pondered) was anything but that. Part two kicked off with Holmes and fishy, mermaidy themes and segued into her shared tendency to fall in love with tornado-like women of high energy and destructive personalities. "Leaving bruises on places we've kissed," and "did you major in drama at Bitch University... or do they study you now..." were crowd-pleasers. But it was her ability to slip in little asides in response to the slightest audience murmur that gave life to Holmes' performance. To a bit of a giggle when an over-stretched and over-ripe metaphor was a little hard to swallow: "Shhh! It's poetry... you can say anything in poetry!" And during a piece reflecting her own coming out: "Straight people will never know what that feels like." Perfect. Then, like Cinderella, my time was up and I had to scuttle out the door with at least half of the evening still to go. It was a great night, warm and enveloping, with five women getting beneath the skin of being gay in ways that resonated with audience members of all sexualities. It's a memory I will treasure. - Jay Bennie Jay Bennie - 19th March 2014    

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Wednesday, 19th March 2014 - 5:24pm

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