Review by Lucy Binnersley. Photographs by Kate Noakes. Video by JFMcG.
This month’s meeting of Poets Live was more than just poetry: Petra Palm aka SocialPhotographer brought along a series of images from her work. She began photographing in 2009 after the birth of her niece – as a way of relating to the world around her. In one image someone is carrying a bag emblazoned with the slogan “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” and in another are the words “a candlestick screaming for peace” set against an orange background. Petra does not just produce beautiful pictures, she produces pictures with a morality and complexity that can be drawn together by something quite simple- the recurring theme in this photo exhibition was the colour orange. The images are simple yet provoking. They are of the everyday that we ourselves encounter but do not always capture.
Petra was sharing the bill with her husband, poet and author Lars Palm. Lars has published poetry in both Swedish and English…and is really funny. He is the perfect example of how poets who aren’t writing in their mother tongue can still be extremely witty and dry. Some poets just have that instinct of expression and Lars is definitely one of them. Lars’s poem An Angry Man is divided into 14 parts, each part beginning with the phrase “An angry man leaves his office”. The repetition of this phrase alone is a humorous story-telling device of the daily journey home from work. We have all been there – stuck in a monotonous job where each day feels like Groundhog Day- so it is easy to relate to, especially the part when the man in question has the “explicit intention of getting shit-faced!!”
Lars also read from his collection 18 easy pieces. Moments when he had the audience laughing out loud (LOL) included; “up at first light/ hit the streets /the streets hit back/ the fight is short” and “it still baffles me how/ an island can possibly/ have a shortage of water”. Lars’s poetry is random and quirky, but universal in humour. His poem titled Removing California from the Map (Californa in Russia that is, in case you were wondering) ends with his concern not for the inhabitants who have left the town that has now ceased to officially exist, but to worry about what will happen to the buildings. Thus there is also that moral undertone to his work too.
Watch Lars Palm read here:
Last but not least was English poet Carol Watts who travelled all the way to Paris, just for this reading. Carol’s poetry is like architecture. She builds her poems but in such a way that the audience can not see the form until the very last piece is put in place. And then she makes the building topple. In her poem about a girl being picked up in a convertible by her prom date we are told of how “the world breaks out into teen dates.” She perfectly sets the scene. But then pops the bubble when she tells us “there is no convertible” the “you are the man and the car” and “you are the upholstery”. All of this is just a dream, an illusion created so that it “keeps the dust from the stuffed animals”. Such a cheerfully melancholic poem. Oh, and I did I mention that she sang during this poem? An unexpected treat that has now convinced me that every poem should feature classic Roy Orbison lyrics from “Only the Lonely”.
In her 28 line poem she uses the curious technique of end-stopping sentences in strange places. Even more curiously it works really, really well. In the segment titled 8th July (n.b. This date is also my birthday so don’t forget to make a note in your calender!) are lines such as “Yesterday the chance of sky expanded. A woman is speaking where pain is. Domestic” and “No one speaks. Happily they have a large car”. The abruptness adds impact and power to the topic. There are many ways to tell a story – and the three featured artists tonight perfectly encapsulated this through image, humour and morality. Definitely three to watch.
Watch Carol Watts read here:
Lars Palm lives with his lovely wife Petra, currently in Malmö. He’s the author of three books: Road Song (Corrupt Press, 2011) , Chaos on/Chaos off (Obvious Epiphanies Press, 2012) & Means (The Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, forthcoming) as well as many chapbooks in print & online, most recently Mulhouse (greying ghost pamphlet #39, 2012). He has held a few odd jobs in a few places, including Stockholm, Dublin & Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is trained as an actor/playwright, organic producer & assistant nurse & has a slow career as a model. He blogs at Mischievoice.
Carol Watts lives in London. Her work includes Wrack (2007) and Occasionals (2011), both published by Reality Street, and a number of chapbooks including the When Blue Light Falls series with Oystercatcher Press, and Mother Blake (Equipage, 2012). Her work across media includes an ongoing collaboration with sound artist Will Montgomery, which began with Pitch in 2011: Carol’s collection Sundog is forthcoming with Veer Books in 2013. She directs the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre at Birkbeck, University of London.
Petra Palm, a.k.a SocialPhotographer, lives in Malmö, Sweden (at least at the moment) with her beloved husband Lars Palm. She works for the people in various creative areas: photo, radio, film, football songs, childrens books… Some of her work has been exhibited and some published. Petra and Lars collaborate as PoFot.