Review

Velocity: The Best of Apples and Snakes

Black Spring Press/Arts Council
£9.95

Cover of Velocity

The year 2003 is the twenty first anniversary of Apples and Snakes, the platform of poetry which is meant to be popular, relevant, cross-cultural and accessible to the widest possible range of people. Later, the organisation's word poetry was replaced by a more appropriate synonym for performance poetry - spoken word.

The anthology Velocity has the aim to transfer mainly performance poetry into the world of written. Now, here is where the problems begin. So much of performance poetry is written only for performance by a particular person (usually the writers themselves), so it seldom stands up on page. When written, many poems of such kind lose it's impact, the delivery and purpose. However, it must be said that Velocity contains works of poets who are strong both on page and as performers. This surely is something that has to be commended.

Luckily, the twenty one years of Apples and Snakes has seen an incredible amount of talent, so that this anthology offers a whole wide spectrum of various poets with completely different styles, from conservative rhymed poems, to modern innovative and contemporary forms.

Velocity contains works of proven poets, whose work is expected to represent a template for contemporary verse. Michael Donaghy gives us Southwesternmost and Exile's End, his talented and precise work which never fails to impress.

Mimi Khalvati is in there, Roger McGough, Brian Pattern, Grace Nichols et al, but Velocity furthermore rewards us by giving us an opportunity to read younger talents, that are dominating London's Performance Poetry scene, but whose work stands strong and proud when written down. How can anyone fail to feel deepest emotions after reading Zena Edwards' Blankets and Roses, or Jacob Sam-La Rose's Bone, or Aoife Mannix's Only the Essentials. These three are probably best examples how poetry can reach highest effectiveness both when performed and read straight from the page.

The writer of these lines has been auspicious enough to witness the wonderful birthday party of Apples and Snakes, where many poets from this anthology read their work on the same stage where A&S organised their first reading, exactly 21 years ago. The versatility and the offering of talent in this way can only be achieved by good old Apples and Snakes. Hats off!

Conversely, there are verses in this anthology written by well established poets who fail to impress at all and whose work is completely over shadowed by younger newcomers.

Michael Horovitz's poem Some Poets are Politicians is lacking inspiration and inventiveness. Same goes for Billy Childish's tediously repetitive We Have War Because We Love War (when will the unimaginative preaching end?), that has an atrocious form. How can anyone really wish to see totally pointless and talentless childish drawings by John Hegley? And poets that dub themselves pseudonyms such as "Nicholas Urbanspirit Makoha", "Thom the World Poet" and "Mr. Social Control" are definitely suspicious.

Fortunately, Velocity brings us new aptitudes, new hopes and bright forms, reminding audiences that the twenty one years of Apples and Snakes was a well worthwhile, damn useful and productive period of offering young talents opportunities to display their poetic know-how and to strengthen their confidence and wish to write and produce great pieces of poetry. Well done Apples and Snakes. See you in another twenty one years.

Nicholas Cobic

 

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