BALANCING ACT -Review by Niall O'Sullivan
The Poor School’s laudable mission to provide quality actor training to those that can’t normally afford it took a terrific hit in 2011 when their premises were damaged by an arson attack. However, being an organisation built on good will as well as hard work, they have been able to continue their practice due to the dedication of students and staff and the generosity of others. In the wake of the fire, Poor School students selflessly contributed 2100 hours of free labour toward repairing the school and keeping it running. It is this enthusiasm, good will, vitality and creative determinism that can be found within the many faces and poems that feature in this collection.
Poetry, even in its darkest and most despairing expression, is the product of an undefeated human spirit. To take one’s thoughts and thoughtfully arrange them on the page in the way that poetry demands of us is not only a testament to how important these thoughts are to us – it is also a testament to how much we care about expressing those thoughts to others.
If Balancing Act refers this positive response to one potentially devastating thoughtless act, it also refers to the great variety of tone and subject matter to be found from the contributors’ poems. From Laurence Bignell’s cheeky opening take on Emo teens to Jenny Wills’s dreamy descent into the mythological murk of a wishing well, Balancing Act explores the shallow aspects of our culture and the deepest depths of our condition with aplomb.
London as a place where hard reality waits for the biggest dreamers that flock to it also features within these pages. It could be the migratory call that causes a girl to fly from her bedroom window in Ben Scheck’s beautiful “Bird Girl”; it becomes a place for outsider reflection in Simon O’s devilishly astute “In London”.
Human relationships are explored from many differing viewpoints and angles. Sophie Delora Jones carefully combines a chilly eroticism with the drawing of relationship battle lines in “My Part is Yours”. Danielle Lautier dives right in at the deep end of love and lives to tell the tale in “Fine Line.
In “It’s Coming Home”, Patrick Johnson defines perhaps the most conflicted and tortuous relationship for most people within these borders – the troubled tryst between the English and their national football team.
It is also fitting that Ted Stanley’s penultimate poem “Enchantment” seeks to rehabilitate the element of fire itself, its opening stanza explores the role fire plays in instigating human passion, “And when we burned like fires bright,/In open hearths on winter nights;/Restless, reckless, reaching higher,/Fuelled by such strong desire.”.
In the same sense, the fire of 2011 may have compromised the structural integrity of The Poor School’s North London base but it has strengthened the human bonds at the heart of the enterprise – bonds that are far trickier for callous acts to prize apart
A leading figure in London’s poetry scene, Niall has been writing poems since he was a nipper and reading them to audiences throughout the UK and Europe since 1997. Niall has released two full collections of poetry, Your not singing anymore (2004) and “Ventriloquism for Monkeys” (2007). His poem “The Father in Law” was included in the 2009 Forward Book of Poetry. In 2009, Niall featured on BBC Radio and Television as he wrote and performed poems for the Wimbledon Championships. He has recently been the resident poet of the South Kilburn Speaks project, and helped South London primary schoolchildren fuse poetry and philosophy with the Wonderwords project. Niall runs workshops for adults and children for The Poetry School, Apples and Snakes and the Arvon Foundation. He currently hosts and organises Poetry Unplugged, London’s best known poetry open mic, at Covent
Garden’s Poetry Café. www.niallosullivan.co.uk/
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