Guest contributor David McGowan from The Battered Billycock was at the launch of Manchester poet Rod Tame’s new book, Strange World, Odd Person on behalf of The Fiction Stroker on Thursday night, here’s his take on events:
Rod Tame’s launch night for his book ‘Strange World, Odd Person’ (Flapjack Press) is a superb example of the power of simple performance poetry to take your breath away. Within Manchester City Library on a sunny Thursday night, Tame and his two supporting cohorts from the rudely thriving Manchester poetry scene, Sarah Miller and Steph Pike, illustrate the breadth of the scene in terms of their differing subject matter but also the scene’s passion in their deeply personal poems.
Steph Pike’s poems on the passing of Thatcher and the ridiculous assertion by Ian Duncan Smith (£53, you know the rest) are not merely political in terms of addressing specific figures, they are highly personal reactions, attacking Conservatism’s legacy of ills whilst celebrating its opposite, an inclusive culture of feeling, emotion, community. A lot has been written, said, drawn and performed recently of the anniversary of the Manchester Suffragettes and their vandalism of Manchester Gallery artworks – Pike’s poems have the same passion and fervour, the same imagination, the same urge to change things not for the sake of social or emotional anarchy, but to change things for the better.
Sarah Miller’s poems by contrast involve the honesty of memory, of love and lust, of admitting to dirty conversations with dirty boys in even dirtier phone boxes. She evokes the ghost-story myth of Lilygreen, finding in this haunted (and haunting) metaphor a possible mother, daughter, lover. The black-clad Miller with her enticing and voluptuous enunciations evokes warm laughter as much as she does gasps of sensual pleasure – her poems abound with references to blood, lips and “sticky fingers”.
The performance style of Rod Tame may be theatrical but is by no means superficial – Tame’s flourishes and the fruitiness, his love of filthy puns (Manchester’s Gay Village described as “a land of Hope and Glory holes”) and expansive circumlocution are the verbal equivalent to his physical performance, an unshy repertoire of arm-swinging, hand-waving and toin-cossing (“Two sides of a coin/ flipped by self-confidence trickster/ who hopes to fool/ beer-thirsty crowd and himself/ that he can do this thing”). But what all of these flourishes emphasise is the tightrope of Tame’s imagination – a shy, bullied, closeted geek from conservative England who has transformed himself, through poetry and queer-friendly scenes, into the creative person he wanted to be, and feared he could not be. His talk may be fancy, but his fears are real.
As is his love. Although his poems describe the pain of love, of falling emotionally for a fuck-buddy, of not fitting in to gay culture, his “quiet poems” (his words) are also his loudest, the love between his “sainted grandparents” providing a template for true love in its simplest and warmest forms – the audience melts as Tame recites, of his jigsaw-loving nan, “She will start the dinner soon/ but first takes a sip/ and inserts the last piece of blue/ Savours the click/ of a perfect fit”).
Rod Tame is indeed an odd person in a strange world, a world his poems navigate with optimism, love and laughter.