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PLU Open Mic featuring Jo Bell

PLU Open Mic featuring Jo Bell

Review by Kate Noakes. Photographs by Emily Ruck Keene.

Ahoy me hearties!

In the bar where the rum in never gone, PLU Open Mic set sail this week with the marvellously pink-haired poetry performer and activist Capn Jo Bellwho sang love songs to shipwrights, messaged us with flags and warned us about gang rapist ducks and other cheery tales of the river bank. ‘All water ever wants to do is fall.’ Jo is the mistress of the love poem that doesn’t sound like porn. She shared her collaborative poems from a recent film and photography project and presented her new invention of poetic form, the decimal sonnet: ten lines because it can’t be arsed to have fourteen. Time to start playing with new quoits.

Ordinary swabs pulling poetic ropes across the deck this week were Moe with his bad dark nights and poem of no certain conclusion and Tom who was having similarly wasted nights and disappointments. Kate tried to find the north-west passage with a war poem and showed off her tattoos. Helen’s old Norton hadn’t found his sea legs and was shaky in the Essex Road on his zimmer frame.

Jason seemed busy screwing women in every port and David every Hispanic boy in LA. Troy brought out the cannon from his padded cell in a one 500 word sentence that had him and us breathless. Adair found something serpentine rotting in her notebook. Paul overheard a lot of whispering in a Toronto restaurant and tied knots with his Gwyneth Paltrow haikus.

Jenna sailed away from Montmartre, but not before getting drunk in every one of its cheap bars, while David stood on the ‘precipitous cusp of spring.’  Will jumped ship this week, but not before explaining that ‘we love each other because we don’t want to eat one another.’ We will miss him, but can report the Belleville Park Pages will be steered on courtesy of Roomi and Evan. Stephen followed Will over the side reminding us that everything is circular.

Back in the crew and in regulation hair was Evan and his songs of Nebraska: ‘sleep like fog swells the cricket song’. Lovely, for a landlubber. Newly press-ganged were Elle on mothers with power beyond measure, Siobhan on drink (she was in the right place) and Calum telling us to watch the credits and asking whether ‘like a film, does everything resolve?’

Shanties by Aziz and, the star in the making that is, Fun King Nero. More rum, rants and sea-sickness next week.


Jo Bell is a poet, writer and the UK’s Canal Laureate. She is the former Director of National Poetry Day and in another life worked as an archaeologist. Her work sometimes focuses on the line between past and present – but equally explores themes of sex, friendship and life as a boat-dweller. She works to narrow the divide between performance poets (who often perform brilliantly but write badly) and page poets (who often write brilliantly but perform badly), and to widen the audience for poetry of all kinds. She works alongside both performance poets (for instance, performing with A F Harrold and Elvis McGonagall) and more traditional poets (being published in Magma and Envoi).


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