Makar Poets breeze into Aberdeen
Thursday 28 May 2009
Books and Beans, Aberdeen [Map]
They arrived quite punctually and met with their audience... As the room began to
quietly fill there seemed an air of the novel, an expanding anticipation. First
up, though, was the open mic, beginning with stalwart Rapunzel Wizard, who delivered
in machine gun rapport the topical issue of MP expenses, followed by half a dozen
readers of subjects various, including a satire on Burns' Tam o' Shanter!
Main stage, however, saw the Makar Poets deliver what may be described as a glossy
piece of poetical delight. The readers, Rowena Love, Sheila Templeton and Michael
Malone, provided a gamut of emotions, albeit with mirth at the apex of their collective
Ear-holes were warmed by their reading a poem apiece in rapid succession, before
moving into the foremost part of the evening. And, yes, it was rather novel, in
that printed sheets were handed out, with words, phrases and opening lines pertaining
to their entire catalogue.
Here the audience was encouraged to select and call out what caught their fancy;
indeed, it could have been anything from maiden aunts to stone circles, from villanelles
to sin — and numerous others in between! A word or phrase, of course, was
related to a particular poet, though overall each obtained an equal amount of floor
space. A touching tribute was that the poems of recently departed member Jim Hughes
were retained, several of which featured in the reading.
Though the poems themselves were superbly delivered, the essence of the evening
lay in the aforementioned audience participation, in the fact that they were made
to feel very much a part of the proceedings. Fresh Ayr? Gale Force 10 for entertainment!
Douglas W. Gray
Once again, a capacity audience came to enjoy the relaxed and friendly atmosphere
of Books and Beans and another enjoyable Thursday poetry event organised by Dead
The evening kicked off with open mic, a longstanding Dead Good Poets tradition,
which provides a welcoming and appreciative platform for local poets working in
a wide range of styles. Then the evening's special guests took the stage. The Makar
Poets, Ayrshire-based, are Rowena M. Love, Michael Malone and Sheila Templeton,
reading their own poems and those of their late fourth member, Jim Hughes. Their
poetry is accessible and direct, in both Scots and English and in a great variety
of styles, mingling sonnets and rhyme with more freely-structured work, and taking
on themes from the satirical and comic to the celebratory, the lovestruck and the
The first part of their reading was conventional in format, with each poet reading
in turn. They are skilled and engaging performers, and it would be easy for them
to fall into the trap of becoming slick: clearly, though, they're aware of the danger,
and side-step it neatly by giving out a handout thick with subjects on which they
have poems, and inviting the audience to dictate the shape and content of the second
half. It's a bold move. The choosing process slows the performance down slightly,
risking a loss of momentum; and it requires trust in the audience both to keep the
ball rolling and to ensure that the choice of subjects doesn't become one-dimensional.
But the risk pays off. Indeed the slower pace and the thematic approach emerge as
benefits, each poem standing out more distinctly from its neighbours. It's good
to see poets taking chances in performance, and even better to see it work so well:
all in all, an excellent evening of entertainment and food for thought.