Friday, October 10, 2008

Lucky Voice

The Lucky Voice event placed poets in Tiger Tiger's private karaoke booths. It marked both National Poetry Day and the very first event of the Manchester Literature Festival.

Upon entering the upstairs bar at Tiger Tiger it became evening time, despite it being just past one in the afternoon. People stood about awkwardly, chatting and playing spot the poet, waiting to be ushered through to the karaoke pods. Eventually, we pile into pod 8, the college teacher and students from Contact Theatre and Xaverian College, the bloggers and the lady with recording equipment. We giggle and squawk as we play with the system, 6000+ songs, and we're stuck on the Kills, Killers and Kaiser Chiefs.

Luckily, Patience Agababi rocks up before the synthesised pop rock gets to me. Her smart black suit, beribboned with words, and sequinned tops adds to the dusky atmosphere. She jokes about her outfit, wishes us happy National Poetry Day, and talks about this year's theme: 'Work'. Patience presented a programme on BBC Radio 4 called '
Blood, Sweat, Tears and Poetry', available on the BBC iplayer for a few more days.

Today her poems skip through music, northern soul, ska and Janis Joplin, suitable topics in a karaoke booth. Mostly sonnets taken from her recently published poetry anthology
Bloodshot Monochrome, her poems skim gracefully from music to her identity, her relationship to her mothers and to her son, and her inability to write about September the 11th in 'Not a 9.11 Poem.'

Next, exchanging pods with almost military precision, it was the turn of John McAuliffe, an Irish poet living in Manchester. His tongue in cheek poems are playfully apocalyptic, the first 'Week 2' inspired by the recent shenanigans with the Hadron Collider at Cern. His poems wriggle from Fog Lane Park and Irish race meets to a ponder on vengeful Japanese angels, which would not be out of place in Empire of Signs. Finally coming to rest in the desolation of office space in 'End of the World.'

After a quick, disorganised loo break, Caroline Bird takes centre stage (though it should be centre booth). Like the works of the previous poets these poems are playful and vivid, but much more demanding. She kicks off (in every sense of the word) with a 'Virgin', a caustic and confrontational poem which elicits under the breath hoots from one young man.

After the professionals it is the turn of the rest of us. The college students, obviously already old hands at this, take to the microphone with glee. After a rushed rendition of W. H. Auden's 'Funeral Blues', we are treated to their own compositions, dealing with contentious issues around politics and identity.


Ella Wredenfors is an Art History graduate, a Captain Beefheart aficionado and fizzy water connoisseur. She writes an arts, culture and comics blog @

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