By Carmel Shortall
Let’s Love, Let’s Kill, Let’s Wait and Wonder at the Sheephaven Bay is an evening of poetry interspersed with music. The mix works well. Angela Jung plays pieces by Gardel, Dvorak, Gluck, Bach and De Falla beautifully on her violin, providing a contemplative space to reflect on Graham Buchan’s words.
The poems themselves are divided into three sections, as in the title, and there is humour, irony, wry affection – but no sentimentality – in Let’s Love and Let’s Wait and Wonder but it is the middle, Let’s Kill, section that dominates and startles.
The language is pared down, fuelling a sense of outrage that is all the more powerful for its reticence. In Function, a poem topped and tailed by two others, titled Iran 1979 and Saddam, two lines simply state:
The innocent woman is dumped back in her cell:
Smoke billows from her mouth
Graham Buchan’s stark, muscular poetry eschews tortured rhymes and ‘tum-ti-tum’ rhythms for lines as bleak as a corpse on a battlefield. His strong declamatory style and brusque delivery make a change from the fey, self-absorbed poetry readings one frequently encounters and was particularly welcome against the backdrop of noise from the more boisterous punters in the bar at the Sheephaven Bay.
Even among the more offbeat of his poems, for instance in The Sound Beyond the Dune, a meeting with a dying mermaid has no trace of whimsy or self-indulgence – just a lyrical appreciation of a life well-lived in the refrain,“I loved a Chinese Sailor”.
And for all the simplicity there are arresting images: “a rainbow stapling Canning Town to Greenwich” and “The dirty jaw of King’s Cross – not a kind place – waited to suck us in”.
While plays about poets: their lives and their poetry are not uncommon in the fringe, there are not perhaps so many readings by poets of their own work and so poetry this challenging, while still being accessible, is doubly welcome.
Graham Buchan’s poetry has been published in the books, Airport Reading (2004), There is Violence in these Vapours (2007) and the pamphlet, In Bed with Shostakovitch (2009) as well as various newspapers, magazines and anthologies.
The initial performance of Let’s Love, Let’s Kill, Let’s Wait and Wonder at the Camden Fringe was on 4 August but it will be followed by two more on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 of August where you can catch him again at the Sheephaven Bay at 9pm. Tickets are £7.00, concs £6.00.