Uncut Poets with Harry Guest, Phoenix Theatre, Exeter Poetry Festival, 27th September, 2017

I attended the Uncut Poets with Harry Guest last night at the Phoenix Arts Centre. This was part of the Exeter Poetry Festival and I did particularly want to see Harry read.

My poem that follows seems the most apt way to characterise the evening. I could only stay for the first part, but as Harry read during this, that was perfect. I also enjoyed the other open-mic performers I saw where the eclecticism of such a night is given its free voice.

The poem is as the evening was, with only the very slightest licence. The dancing above was a little annoying, but also hilarious – not the dancing itself, I’m sure, but its second-hand intrusions.

harry - Copy

Poetry Reading with Harry Guest

I wrote this one in my head…

At the front, the fold-away table’s legs are
taped together to stop any words from

collapsing and falling to the floor.
A poet sitting next to me – we are all writers,

surely – has friends currently out in Baghari
as I read the text message over her shoulder.

Another to my right and in the front row has
one loaf of wholemeal bread in a carrier bag

from which she could later recite her slices of life.
The first reader has secreted a series on molluscs

to now un-shell and let crawl around our seats.
Open-mic number two is introduced –

James Taylor! – and a swift correction follows
of his surname, then the cover-up joke on how

he might serenade us with You’ve Got a Friend,
the bum note of irony immediate when

James introduces the first poem titled No 13 from
a sequence about his loneliness and depression.

Harry reads after the fifth, first of the two invited
writers with his surname aptly as one Guest.

His words fill the room with softly spoken
certainties, his own and translations mainly from

the French, Jean Cassou’s Trente-trois sonnets
composés au secret, poems composed in his head

when in Vichy prison. Harry’s love of language
also resists the boundaries of what it is that divides,

even tonight where in the performance room above,
busy feet of the Bharatanatyam dancing competes.

I leave at the break, miss the next five and other guest,
but I have a poem to recall at home and transcribe.

 

One of Harry’s more recent poems The Last Intruder – superb – is posted at the excellent Stride magazine here.

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Final Freedom Lyrics 6 – This Land is Your Land

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said ‘No Trespassing’.
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

© Copyright 1956 (renewed), 1958 (renewed), 1970 and 1972 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

Freedom Lyrics 5 – Redemption Song

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our mind.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing,
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had,
Redemption songs.
All I ever had,
Redemption songs
These songs of freedom
Songs of freedom

Songwriters: Hawkins, Edwin / Marley, Bob
Redemption Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC