Another few days of the Hybrid Tour and it hits a couple of online events. Fri was OoohBeehive Slam and Sunday Yes We Can’t feat. Vic Pickup and Kevin Higgins

However, this section of the tour was a chance to stay with an old poet friend Spoz and also his wife Claudia. The two of them are superstars and as I told them over dinner, the highlights for me aren’t just the events but also meeting old and new friends. The touring throws up so many memories and new experiences, performing so many times in places like Birmingham means there’s always a mixture of the familiar and the brand new. The cafes bars and restaurants don’t really change much but the  city around it often shifts form, there always seems to be something new to discover and places as worn and comfy as old shoes. I love the cities with their mixture of the original and the derivative. It’s at times like these that I mentally riff on Psychogeography.

For the uninitiated Psychogeography is the study of the effects city architecture and roads have on the emotions and behaviour. It started as a political expression of action through the Situationists of 1960s Paris and lives on today as a largely literary schematic. Novelists such as Stewart Home, JG Ballard, Will Self,  Peter Ackroyd and others often write as active psychogeographers. I have been a huge fan of Psychogeography, in literature it is often expressed as how certain areas of cities perpetrate cycles of behaviour, as if it is the location that controls behaviour not free will so much. It is often concerned with occultism and ley lines, how geography affects mood and therefore action. In literature it is a very rich seam for plot, theme and narrative.

I have sometimes gone on a Derive,( a walk as political act, as an active meander), taking note of the effects of city geography on thought, mood and behaviour. London and Paris are the archetypical locations for Derives but they can be done anywhere. Key Psychogeographical texts include Hawksmoor, Lights Out For the Territory (Non-fiction) and Crash. The Situationists thought that Derives were the necessary research to be done before re-ordering the architecture of a city to best aid emotional harmony and happiness. These days it is good way of understanding cities, how they flow, structure themselves and prohibit some meanders while supporting others.

As for the gigs, Oooh Beehive I did a good turn, got to the semi final and was pipped to the final spot by the fantastic Elizabeth McGeown. Elizabeth and I have gone head to head many times in slams, she is an awesome performer and writer. For me, what was wonderful was that our semi final group of 3 (there were 2 groups of 3) were all Northern Irish poets, also including the powerful performer Mel Bradley. I am often evangelical about how many good poets Northern Ireland houses, and under Covid the online poetry events have been witness to numerous NI poets who have graced slams, open mics and headline slots and features. As I stated before, Covid has had some real silver linings. However I was left after the slam wondering if I should have performed a different poem. As it is you can never know how another poem would have gone down, judging is always subjective. I am happy though that Elizabeth and Chris Campbell are through to the grand final in Dec. Check it out, it should be a fine event.

Yes We Can’t was an open mic slot but for me the main thing was to get a feature set from Kevin Higgins. Kevin is a highly accomplished Irish poet and I can’t believe it took so long to hear him. I was not disappointed, his crackly wit and skilful take on world events, politicians and society and culture is a must see/hear. The weirdest thing though was watching and performing from a hotel room. It was kind of surreal but luckily the wifi was fine. Finally I also heard Vic Pickup, also for the first time. Her personal take on motherhood and also poetry itself was a joy. As for the gig in general it had a huge turnout and was ably and fantastically run by Poets Prattlers and Pandemoniums (Emma Purshouse, Steve Pottinger and Dave Pitt) all three are worth checking out individually, but as a three part group they are heard to beat event-wise. I was part of their Home and Away Event representing Northern Ireland, which introduced myself, Cat Brogan and Nathan Elout-Armstrong to a lovely poetry scene based in the Black Country. I was lucky enough to have been to their event in physical form, the headliner being Ash Dickenson, he is also worth checking out.

So, I am now staying with an old friend from uni days Michael, chilling with his kids and Catherine, so these few days are another highlight. Thurs is the Genesis Slam, Hackney. I have to be sharp to nab a sign up on the night slot. It should be exciting. In the meantime, thank you London and Birmingham, it’s been a blast