Poets ready to perform

Keiron PimNorwich's poetry scene is growing all the time and now there is a new monthly club night to act as a focus for local and national talent.Keiron Pim

Performance poetry has long had a following in Norwich and now the city has its own regular monthly showcase.

Norwich Poetry Club holds its third event on April 20, adding another component to the city's impressive array of regular literary events.

"You can't walk around the corner in Norwich without bumping into a poet," says co-founder Martin Figura, who is already well known among the city's arts community as the chairman of Caf� Writers, which holds a monthly evening of readings at the Music House on King Street.

The new night at the Bicycle Shop caf�, on St Benedict's Street, is run by him and five other poets from Norwich: Yanny Mac, Molly Naylor, John Osborne, Hannah Walker and Luke Wright.

Each month one of them reads from their work and is joined by a visiting poet. This month sees Martin perform, with London-based Clare Pollard taking the additional spot. The downstairs bar at the Bicycle Shop is a small, intimate venue and given the popularity of the previous two events, anyone interested would be advised to buy tickets in advance.

"It's going really well so far," says Martin. "It is probably tilted towards performance poetry on the whole, but you wouldn't call me or Clare performance poets.

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"The idea is to bring the best people on the spoken word performance scene from around the country to the city and pair them with poets from Norwich. We have had all sorts of good people already, from Martin Newell to Elvis McGonagall."

Luke Wright, who will compere the event on April 20, added: "It's partly about celebrating the local scene and also bringing poets to the city and showing them what we are doing in Norwich.

"Clare Pollard is one of those great writers who is very much a 'page poet' but is also a spine-tingling performer. She hits you hard with the way she reads her work.

"Part of our ethos is to explore that cross between page and performance space. There's lots of cross-pollination between page and space and for me, Clare does that very well."

Figura describes himself as "a Scouser who reached the rank of Major in the army before sacking it all off to become a photographer and poet".

His first poetry collection, The Little Book of Harm (Firewater Press), was published in 2000, and Ahem (Eggbox) was published in 2005. A third, Whistle, is forthcoming from Arrowhead, and will provide some of the material for his reading at the Bicycle Shop.

"I have another side of me, doing a bit of funny stuff," says Martin. "My set will be a mix of the new lighter stuff and some of the darker stuff."

Clare Pollard was born in 1978 and studied at Cambridge University. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 2000, the same year that her first poetry collection, The Heavy-Petting Zoo, was published. Her second, Bedtime, came out in 2002.

She has also presented two television documentaries, one for Channel 4 with verse commentary. Her first play, The Weather (2004), was staged at the Royal Court in autumn 2004 and the following year she released her latest collection of poetry, entitled Look, Clare! Look!

Last year she edited an anthology of new poetry with James Byrne, called Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century.

Like Martin Figura, her appearance in Norwich will see her combine new work with old.

Luke added: "I've done a lot of gigs and met a lot of people over the last few years, and scheduled the poetry stage line-up at the Latitude festival - 60 hours of poetry is a huge endeavour, and it's tough for the top-of-the-bill act to come on after four hours of poetry.

"It's lovely scheduling Latitude, but what I have learnt is that it's very important that poetry should be intimate, and it's about quality not quantity. And that's what we are trying to do with the Norwich Poetry Club."

Admission to the event on April 20 at the Bicycle Shop on St Benedict's

Street costs �5. See www.norwichpoetryclub.co.uk for more information. All performances are recorded and posted as podcasts on the website.

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