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Event review: Ostara Poetry 18 March 2023 - what you missed

In the lead up to the Medway River Lit festival, Wordsmithery were invited to host a special one-off event, Ostara Poetry, as part of Sun Pier House’s INTRA SPRING. Four great poets from across South East England performed in a one-off event at Cafenetics café in Chatham on 18 March.

First up to the mic was Bethany Goodwill, Medway resident and co-host of monthly poetry night Big Trouble. Bethany was typically self-effacing in their poetry which usually carries a strong sardonic weight. Their bubbly and cheerful real-life stage presence is often counter-pointed by the dry, deeply dark humour in their poems, which comes out with a sharp line that unsettles and energises the audience. They closed their set by sharing a work in progress of a longer poem that bounced between viewpoints; a series of short, jolting verses that still managed to keep the audience engaged and attentive.

Next up was Rosie Johnston, who came from Whitstable. Rosie’s poetry is always carefully considered—you feel each word is precisely picked and fitted, although the naturalness of her voice prevents her poetry from feeling stilted. Rosie read us some excerpts from her most recent collection 'Six-Count Jive', itself a culmination of previous books and a decade’s worth of work, utilising haiku-inspired poems to create shards of poetry which the listener can piece together, or admire the pearlescent quality of each by itself. But she doesn’t limit herself to the form and some of the most enjoyable moments of the afternoon were her longer poems that bordered on the edge of story-telling, inviting us to rest by the cool lake of Rosie’s voice.

After Rosie we heard from Siân Thomas, poet in residence at Ashdown Forest. Siân’s poetry is infused with the natural world and wildlife imagery, but the topics and concerns of her poems are very real and day-to-day. She uses the canvas of British wildlife to talk about parenting, housework and childhood in a way that dances between the mythical and the mundane, and her voice also danced around the café with light musicality. Siân is a fairly small figure on the stage but she’s able to really fill out the room with her voice with its lilting, sing-song like qualities.

Finally, we heard from Louisa Campbell. Similarly to Siân, Louisa is not a large figure but her performance absolutely dominated the stage with a barking voice that swelled the room. Louisa has a history as a mental health practitioner and much of her poetry is filled with a biting humour that must be needed to do that work for years. She is able to write across different topics and voices with ease, ranging from domestic violence to council bureaucracy, but all underpinned by a sense of human interconnection. Louisa relished in her performance, even bringing in Cafenetics’ owner Asif to assist with sound effects from the espresso machine to punctuate one of her poems.

The afternoon overall brought together these poets to a natural-fitting cohesion that let each performer’s best qualities shine while managing to find a unity between the poets.

* If you missed this relaxed afternoon of poetry and yearn to hear more from these poets, both Bethany Goodwill and Louisa Campbell will be performing at Medway River Lit, so keep your eyes peeled for the full schedule.

Review by David Dykes

Photos by Barry Fentiman Hall and Charlotte Ansell

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