Saturday, 12 December 2009

Poetry Review: Liv Torc at Otto Retro

I like Lic Torc. She does what she does - sassy performance poetry, off by heart, acted not just recited - and she does it well. I'm not the only one who says so. She won the South-West final of the Radio 4 Slam, is one of Matt Harvey's Wondermentalist cabaret troupe, and is an indefatigable presence on the local spoken word scene.

I like her work, or rather I like her performing her work. I like the title of her book too - 'Take Your Monkey and Get Out of My Life' - which isn't to say I bought a copy. Truth is, I'd only read it to remind me of her bringing it to life on stage. That's the problem with performance poetry on the page - with an active local scene giving plenty of opportunities to check out its good - and not so good - practitioners, and youtube as a backup if I ever feel like a fix of the same, I reserve my reading hours for other stuff.

Which isn't to say I don't regard Liv as a poet, I do, her and some - though not all - of her tribe - Amazonian and otherwise. Several were up there with her at Otto Retro - Exeter's funky junk store, one of the several homes of East Devon's poetry Stanza, Excite. In a funny kind of way, the setting was like the inside of her mind - eclectic bric-a-brac you probably don't need, but find yourself being charmed by all the same.

Some had her pizazz and the ones that didn't, at least they had a go. I can listen to the worst of them for five minutes, once, on an open mic. By the third or fourth time my democratic instincts are being tested, but I don't begrudge anyone the opportunity. It's how wannabe poets test themselves against an audience, alongside other wannabes, the odd should've-been and the occasional real thing. It's like eating canapes - if you don't like what you've got, there's another one coming along to soak up your glass of wine.

And I kind of regret not buying a copy of that book for the title alone. It would have made a quirky present for one of my younger sisters or elder nieces. I might just have done that but then she was chaired as the Bard of Exeter, made to wear robes and take a vow after a long speech by the Grand Bard about what the recently interred tradition should mean to her and us. That sickle lacked a cutting edge. So I slipped out the door and rushed home to watch Larry David's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' instead. And I'd advise performance poets with a comedic wit and sense of the ridiculous to do the same.

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