1) Spoken from the Art, Open Mic Performance

Wednesday 2nd September 2009, 19:30 to 21:30


Spoken from the Art: A night out with Enigma 

Michelle Johnson 


With an ambitious mission to provide anyone and everyone with the opportunity to tell a story, it is no surprise that fledgling publication Enigma Magazine did not take long to hit the streets with its first successful fundraising event.


September’s Spoken from the Art open mic night was organised by Enigma editor Susan Gray, 22, and featured twelve artists of diverse backgrounds and experiences. The event included familiar faces to London’s poetry circuit, including Ant Smith and Alan Wolfson, as well as welcoming the debut performances of several writers.


The event was held in the stylish Jester Room at the Cross Kings Bar and Restaurant (Kings Cross). The subterranean room, decorated with lavishly provocative cartoons, lent the night the feel of a well-lit writers’ workshop, bright and intimate and occasionally broody – a well-chosen setting for the controversial scope of subjects explored by Spoken from the Art’s performers.


Culture and class were eloquently examined by poets such as Sheema Huq, whose beautiful ‘Sari Sanctuary’ examined the poet’s treasured personal memories through various methods of preserving her carefully hoarded saris, combining the practical and emotional throughout. Robert Monk, in contrast, presented an indulgent look at middle class youth, as he spoke dryly about his love of alcohol and making “a career out of whining”.


The event also featured the surprising sketches of Bertram Trotar, a performance poet and professional comedy caricature, who recently performed at an Oxfam charity show as ‘Britain Finest Young Poet’ and is writing material for a pilot television comedy (nice one, Bertram!).


There was an obvious contrast between the brilliantly funny, atheist punk poetry of Alan Wolfson, a former radio writer of quick wit and nippy rhythms, and the debut performance of Cynthia Huber. Huber’s poem ‘Faces’ was a lyrical celebration of the author’s spiritual awakening, the rhythms of which were reminiscent of the most uplifting funk and gospel. Hers was one of the more subtle references to music during the event, an unofficial theme that proved to be one of the biggest treats of the night.


Paul Taylor played the tenor trombone between poems, while Maria Slovakova’s moody jazz band accompaniment gave the Dutch poet’s performance the atmosphere of a film noir jazz bar. Slovakova effortlessly mixed language, tone and movement throughout each piece; her poem ‘Regen-Achtig’ jumped from Dutch to Slovakian to English from verse to verse, woven together with Bjork-like half melodies and expert intonation.  


Ant Smith, professional photographer by trade, fused elements of folk songs, rock and roll and choral music in his a capella renditions of his poetry. He explained that he believes “…the distinction between performance poetry and printed poetry is that, although you might read hundreds of lines on a page, performance has a better capacity to communicate with people, with rhythms and music to drive it on.”


This driving force of performance and creativity is something that Enigma seems to understand clearly, and each performer was received enthusiastically, and with great warmth on the night. Despite Gray’s decision to introduce no obvious theme or common cause to tie the acts together, there was a great sense of cohesion and symmetry on the whole, as the audience experienced love and loss, Twitter and academia, youth and wisdom.  


Cynthia Huber said she was delighted by the enthusiastic reception of the night’s performances, adding: “Enigma is a lovely organization and I hope they go from strength to strength. I’ve become a fan of many new poets here tonight!”


Michelle Johnson

Freelance Writer

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