The B-Bar is packed and I’m navigating through a crowd of rambunctious bodies. The venue’s iconic velour curtains are nearly pressed against my nose as I sit beneath the canopy of blue fairy lights. A man is fidgeting with an electronic keyboard as tendrils of wires are snaking drunkenly across the stage. I’m a front seat patron and this is Apples and Snakes’ Valentine’s Day ‘FORKED!’
The event’s brand new host, Marian, walks on stage with jade green hair, a stripy tie and a badge sporting the message ‘NO TRIDENT’. She warms the crowd with a small exercise:
‘I’m going to say the word LOVE, and after three, you’re going to say what springs to mind. One, two, three…’
The tone is set – jovial, light hearted, and perhaps a little anti V-day. Marian quips about ‘when dating was analog’ and regardless of her understandable nerves, I warm to her instantly. She introduces the first act of the night, Chris White and T.S Idiot.
Chris White and T.S Idiot have been asked to perform together, and their on-stage presence is hilarious. They admit to making their act up on the train and I think the lack of rehearsal works spectacularly in their favour. Their first poem is an ongoing cyclical performance of ‘roses are red, violets are blue’, and it’s both clever and entertaining. They follow with a second collaboration, which involves T.S Idiot reading Daily Mail headlines and Chris White responding with messages from random Love Heart sweets. It’s incredibly funny and saturated with creativity. It may not super compelling, but it is self aware and a great laugh to get the audience warmed up for the evening.
T.S Idiot, sporting a fedora and a ‘SUPPORT WOMEN WRITERS’ badge, performs poems about Lidl and his moustache. Chris White counters with a very awkward poem about falling in love with a duck. These performances are amusing, and allow the pair to bounce off of each other well; however, my favourite piece was White’s poem about an ex boyfriend. It revolved around the timeline of the Great British Bake Off, and it was genuinely lovely.
Enter Beth Calverley, co-producer of Bristol’s ‘Milk Poetry‘ event and the brain behind The Poetry Machine. She tells the audience of her plans to take us on a tour of her life through the experience of love, which immediately feels absorbing.
Calverley begins her narrative poetry with an incredible story of her birth – prematurely born, her mother takes off her clothes so that she can wrap Beth in her arms and keep her alive through skin-on-skin body heat. This maternal instinct and love has extended throughout Beth’s life and created an undeniable bond between herself and her mother.
She confesses her thoughts of romantic love, and her girlhood doubt that she’d experience it for being too awkward and nerdy. Her poem recounts a trip to a cliff-top with her boyfriend, which she once visited on a school trip. Her boyfriend challenges her to jump into the water after him, but fear and memories from the past ultimately prevents her from doing so for hours. The way she introduces and presents this poem is sincerely beautiful.
Calverley has a romantic, vulnerable, and utterly absorbing presence. She is earnestly open with her audience about self-love and the battle between her mental and biological desires. The calibre of her craft feels innate and inevitable, and it’s something I’m just not sure you can teach – Beth is an artist you need to keep an eye on.
Bird Speed is this event’s headlining act and her energy is radiant. Her first message? SELF LOVE IS IMPORTANT.
“You should be the greatest love of your life.”
Speed introduces the audience to her romantic relationship with an ‘African American guy living in the U.S.’ Her tumultuous poem takes us through the pining of a long-distance relationship, and the reality of the discrimination towards black people adopted by many American police officers. As her boyfriend is pulled over by an officer for doing absolutely nothing in particular, we feel her fear and drink her rage at the corrupt U.S. system. She comments on America being crazy with its incarceration rates, trigger happy nature and GM food, and it’s the kind of content everyone needs to hear.
Despite the intense nature of the poem, she infuses comedy which makes the majority of it feel light-hearted and comedic. This is a very complex feeling for me as a privileged white woman, who has no right to laugh at any of this – and that’s why I think it’s excellent craft.
She’s loud, excitable, performative and bold as she proclaims, ‘I’m extra!’. Her poetry is stunning. ‘Most black men are cheating… death.’ My favourite quote has to be:
‘America, you were not built to love colour, you were built because of it.’
Bird Speed also writes intelligent poetry about misogyny and powerful women. A light-hearted poem about the Wonderbra is followed by a performance dedicated to a strong woman portrayed to be ‘delicate’ in a portrait curated from gentle pencil strokes. Her craft is entertaining, meaningful, and powerful – Bird Speed is not one to be ignored.
In a brand new format, FORKED! brings Spoils Collective to the stage, an unusual band comprising of drums, trumpets, bass, guitar, tambourine, and vocals. They’ve never brought a band to the event, so it’s exciting to hear a musical element.
I can say that I’ve honestly never heard anything like them before. Very political, extremely experimental and a bit like Kate Nash in vocality, the band opted for unconventional melodies and made an interesting addition to the evening. I really enjoyed their song ‘Baby Sponge’ – it was fantastically political and excellently written.
This evening was humorous, charming, and inventive. The acts all shone in different ways, and it was exciting to discover more incredible poets. I’m a huge fan of these events, and I would definitely recommend attending one when you can! You can find more details on the Apples and Snakes website, here, or over on their Facebook.