Two new additions to my busy autumn/winter table: Sex, Love and Rock and Roll by Tony Walsh aka Longfella, and Navigation by Canal Laureate, Jo Bell. What inspired these two new purchases? A trip to Otley Courthouse to see Lifted, an interactive poetry performance by these two accomplished and entertaining poets.
It’s a cold, misty mooned Saturday night. Otley is quiet and blank faced stone houses line suspiciously silent streets. But there is a warm buzz emanating from The Courthouse, and the monochrome night is rescued by warm lights and coloured flags; remnants from Divali flapping in the cold wind.
Friendly face surprises are the first bursts of happiness, followed by a cheeky glass of white and finding seats near the front. We’re a little disappointed how easy it is to find seats- we had expected to struggle to get tickets for this event after looking forward to it for a good three months. However the last explosive celebrations of Bonfire Night seem to have tempted most away; or possibly Doctor Who. Haven’t these people heard of iPlayer??
Still, the medium sized audience manages to fill the courtroom with clapping, laughter, sighs and even the clatter of heels on wood as Tony and Jo take us on an exploration of all the things, big and small, that make us happy. We even have homework! Jo reads out our handwritten offerings such as When and where were you happiest so far and Tell us something that makes you happy. I chose my happiest moment so far: coming home from the hospital with Nathan, him sleeping in the Moses basket, poor cats struggling to cope and perching, meerkat like, peering at the new invader while Matt Smith dominated the TV.
Jo and Tony take turns and sometimes duet on a diverse range of poems; some funny, some sad, but all touching on the moments that lift us; that make us grateful, joyous, or bring epiphany.
Tony’s quick fire, loud and cheeky delivery matches his skill with rhyme perfectly; not many poets can rhyme and keep rhyming for a long time in a long poem and not have it sound trite or contrived at some point. Tony not only manages this but almost makes you forget you are listening to a structured form; the poems almost become songs.
Jo’s delivery is heartfelt and ranges between gentle sincerity and naughty humour. Her phrasing is a delight and the imagery she uses evokes feelings and memories that can drag you back to a summer’s day, or a lazy morning’s (lack of) activities, or a passionate clinch.
There is talk of love and kingfishers, dancing and death, a manifesto for happiness and the truth about duck gang rape. Ranging between enthralling and hilarious, these poets work marvellously together and at the end of the night, I think we really are all thinking about the things that make us happy, and we have been thoroughly entertained. Highly recommended.