Jackie Kay and Matthew Sweeney, Café Writers

The Garage, Norwich

Café Writers goes from strength to strength. The Norwich-based group was founded six years ago by Tom Corbett but has only this year received any funding - a £5,000 Awards for All grant.

Saturday night saw a switch of venue from its home at Jurnet's Bar, Wensum Lodge, to The Garage, Chapelfield North, to accommodate a larger audience for two of the poetry scene's leading lights.

Kay, born in Edinburgh to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father, was adopted by a white couple at birth and brought up in Glasgow.

Her work explored themes of identity and love, by turns witty and moving and never more so than in her account of meeting her born-again Christian birth father who, she realised, regarded her as “my past sin”.

Kay's victory is in the perspective she has on the experience, concluding: “I think he had my hands, my father.”

The poems were interspersed with links of pure stand-up - hilarious and warmly engaging.

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Sweeney, born in Donegal, is a narrative poet whose stories - often with a surreal edge, sometimes darkly so - achieve a hard-won lyricism that is never cloying. In one, a group of friends play poker beside the coffin of a dead uncle; in another, a sweat mark on a T-shirt during a hot summer in Romania reminds the poet of the map of Ireland.

One of his strongest poems, A Dream of Honey, conjures a world where bees are extinct. Inspired by a trip to Riga, Latvia, where the main market is housed in old Zeppelin hangars, the poem is a beautifully fashioned, modern folk tale.

Both poets had held workshops during the day - one for young writers, which Café Writers organised as part of a community development brief that followed the award of its grant.

Indeed, supporting Kay and Sweeney in the evening were two young poets, Paris and Pascal, whose 'slam' style offered up a string of streetwise, strongly rhythmic poems - one neatly subverting rap's association with violence by imagining guns that fire bullets of knowledge.

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