#PAW17 might be over but some of the participating projects continue year round with lots of opportunities to get involved.

Here Pete Golding reviews the Waterfront Writer & WonderZoo open mic night at The China House, which was a special event as part of Plymouth Literary Festival. Information about WonderZoo events can be found at www.wonderzoo.org.

One thing poetry is especially good at is confronting our own mortality and commemorating the lives of others. Tonight was, by coincidence, such a night. For instance NICK SPARGO read to us a moving piece entitled The Final Resting Place and JILL HEATHER-GRANGE read out an elegy to an English cemetery in Singapore entitled Bidadari. Both very poignant and moving. NATALIE MOLYNEAUX meditated on the casualties of war in a Wave Of Poppies and SARAH BOULTON-WAY commemorated the late Keith Bennett in The Passing Of The Parasite whereas THEA BRUTEN eulogised about Sybil & her passing. JAN STALKER read Flashbacks, another moving meditation on death and dying and NICKY BEVAN-FRENCH commemorated her Dad’s passing with She Danced With My Father Again.

However to begin at the beginning: NICK INGRAM was master of ceremonies and introduced each writer as well as reading three of his own poems over the course of the evening. My new favourite was Clean Poem which was exactly that, especially in contrast to some of Nick’s more explosive poems.

Ms. ANNE JENKINS read three haunting poems about the sea from her Water Trilogy, each very different than the last but all rather haunting and evocative. NICK SPARGO read out five personal pieces beginning with a meditation on being in a coma or in a Persistent Vegetative State. Quite unsettling. JILL HEATHER-GRANGE recalled visiting Exeter Cathedral in Light & Sound (or Son et Lumiere) as well as five other poems. Emotion recollected in tranquillity one might say. We were lucky to have MICHAEL GREEN take centre stage and read out three upbeat pieces including All You Need Is Love. So true. So endearing.

Three seemed to be the magic number after this. NATALIE MOLYNEAUX read out three pieces and was the first poet of the evening to attempt to rhyme in Black Plastic Bags. Well done, Nan. SARAH ADAMS read out three of her enigmatic pieces including a recollection of the joy of lollypops and gobstoppers entitled Bright Blue recalling the colour our tongues went after eating them. We were in the presence of raw talent. The imitable MICHEAL DAX entertained in his inimitable way reading out three of his mazy pieces which included a rhapsody on pole dancers wittily entitled Flexible Workers. If you haven’t heard Mr. Dax deliver his compositions, you’ve got to. It is an experience and a half!

Before the intermission we were entertained by CAROL BUSTON on banjo and John BUSTON on guitar who played and sang some ole favourites in a scrumpy & western style including Dirty Ole Town and Maggie May. They began by parodying Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer which made us all laugh but by the end we were all joining in.

I suppose another theme that poetry is especially good at is invoking the past and restoring forgotten memories. After the intermission SARAH BOULTON-WAY read five poems which invoked the past and none more so than The Bright Green Leotard which invoked memories of those nightmare days of doing gym at school. Shudder. JULIAN ISAACS read from his forthcoming volume (Wimbledon) three nostalgic poems set in London in the 1960s invoking the era when London was encased in fog, The Filimin Inside. Mr. ISAACS is an intense and serious artist who effortlessly mixes up high culture and pop culture with the everyday and the exotic with an exquisite turn of phrase.

Unfortunately THEA BRUTON was not well enough to read her own work so JOHN BUTSON did the honours. He read just two of her poems concluding with a poignant piece called The Cull. We wish Ms BRUTON a speedy recovery and hope she will be back in front of the mike before very long. JAN STALKER read a heart-rending poem about dementia called Where Did The Love Go? but ultimately she left us with a soothing PEACE. Thank you Ms. STALKER for taking us on an emotional journey that night. CAROL BUTSON returned (sans banjo) to read out several of her humorous poems including a diatribe against Dog Muck and The Battle of Hastings from the viewpoint of our health and safety era. More nostalgia was invoked by NICKY BEVAN-FRENCH in her three poems, none more so than Warm Days In September. Ms BEVAN-FRENCH has considerable power to invoke strong feelings of engagement through her craft. Long may that last.

JOYCE MATTHEWS just gets better and better in her writing and, in her delivery. On this dark night she brought light and joy into our hearts with rhymes and comic everyday situations like having trouble with your feet (Gosh My Feet!) or choosing clothes (A Little Titter) before going to A Posh Do! Ms. MATTHEWS has wit, charm and a disarming delivery disguising the fact that a lot of hard work must go into her writing to make it appear so natural and homely. I think she received the loudest cheers and deservedly the biggest guffaws. Thank you, JOYCE. The last reader was JACKIE WACHA author of the novel Wild Rats. She read out a humorous account of driving into Plymouth called The Journey. In the hands of an expert writer Ms WACHA managed to convey the complexities of driving into our fair city while making us laugh at the folly of it. Ms WACHA is an extraordinary writer in any medium, poetry or prose.

The evening concluded with the return of scrumpy and western stars CAROL (banjo) BUSTON and John (guitar) BUSTON who serenaded us with some more ole classics including The Green Fields of France and the apt Goodnight, Ladies. If you had any doubts whatsoever as to how much the audience of thirty enjoyed this very varied and contrasting evening, have a look at the smiling faces on FACEBOOK. Thank you, CAROL & JOHN for leaving us with a song in our collective heart. In fact, a big heart to all involved! But especially PETE DAVEY and our rumbustious master of ceremonies NICK INGRAM.