Words by: Mandy Moe Pwint Tu
Ships in the Night was a great night for poetry. How do I know? When I arrived ten minutes early I sat down in the dining space outside the bar and wrote two short poems, one of which was aptly named ‘Ships in the Night’. And that was only the beginning.
Seven o’clock struck, I got stamped on my wrist, put down my name for open mic, and I headed straight for the table closest to the stage, sat down, and looked around. The lights were dim; the red curtains serving as a backdrop to the stage gave the entire show a fitting theatrical feel. I was eventually joined by Tania from seasonsonline.com.au – she was there writing a review too, so we exchanged websites.
The first act was Sam Atkin, who could have used an introduction, for the transition from the music playing before to his immersive drone music, as he called it, was subtle – it was only about ten minutes into his act that we realised that he was the first act. He battled a few glitches (that’s technology for you) but he pulled through. When he had finished our host for the night, the lovely Vidya Rajan, leapt onstage and introduced the show, informing us that this was the twelfth Ships in the Night and the last one of the year. She also said that the title, ‘Ships in the Night’, was taken from a piece by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which I’ll write here for you:
Ships that pass in the night and speak each other in passing;
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence.
Tales of a Wayside Inn. Part iii. The Theologian’s Tale: Elizabeth. iv.
Of course, she didn’t quote this exact stanza. Hers had a quip about Tinder and loneliness.
The first half showcased the talents of Dennis Venning, and his poem about family and murder, which was all in all quite fascinating; followed by Patrick Marlborough’s poem about ‘languidly tortured farts’, which included references to Winnie the Pooh and Lord of the Rings, which I appreciated; Ashley Ramsey and her four heartfelt poems, a nice change of pace from the previous two poets; and Richard Moore, who read us an excerpt from his novel, which was quite brilliant, and made me reflect on my own sorry writing over the past two days.
There was a ten minute interval before the second half commenced, with the four members of Fingernail taking to the stage with their electric guitars and drums and proceeding to scream their lyrics into the microphones. They finished with ‘Stomach of a King’, which I found surprisingly catchy.
Geoff Lemon, one of the two headliners, was up next. He opened with a humourous piece, about a town in Connecticut called Mianus. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how that poem went. He performed three more poems, my favourite of which was ‘The End of Days’; and then finally, he hushed the entire room with a verse from a song he was working on with Urthboy, about what I’m going to call selective mourning. It was beautiful.
Lucy Dougan was next and she recited a couple of poems about her brothers and sisters, scattered around the world. It was a truly emotional performance, and my heart was stirring while she read out “The Ties My Sister Makes” and ‘The Boy, Ian’, the latter of which was my absolute favourite.
We then moved on to open mic. Vidya Rajan said, ‘Let’s make this a bloodbath. You have two minutes each,’ which scared me, because I hadn’t timed myself. The lady before me was fantastic, I loved her piece, it was well written and well performed – it was a tough act to follow, as Vidya too truly stated. I got up there and recited ‘Not Like Dad’, rushing through the words as quickly as I was able, but it seemed to be well received.
The remaining three open mikers were confident and charismatic; Steven Finch recited a fan fiction piece about the performers of the night, and Sam Sandwich ended the open mic, and consequently the night, with a wonderful piece playing on Shakespeare’s ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ about loving someone just because.
It was a perfect end to a great night. The ships had come to port.