Music of meaning at Satellite of Love

You really would be hard put to find a more eclectic and friendly evening than the ever-fascinating Satellite of Love Poetry and Spoken Word night  (Facebook, Twitter -@SOL_Poetry) in Easton, Bristol, run by Helen Sheppard, Pauline Seawards, and Stella Quinlivan (two open mic sets, featured poets, money raised goes to charities helping refugees). It’s a wonderfully accepting mix of styles, outlook, and levels of experience. 

Last night, for example, I heard a poem in Cornish for the first time ever. I also heard Alison Brackenbury, who has recently published a selected, Gallop, from Carcanet and Saili Katebe who ‘smashed the stage at last year’s Cheltenham Poetry Festival slam and is our reigning champion,’ (

Their details are below, and I enjoyed listening to both very much. One is a seasoned poet who many would think of as a ‘page poet,’ with nine collections. the other has only been in the UK from Zambia since he was fourteen and you might think of as ‘performance.’And both demonstrated to me that the supposed divide between page and performance is rather artificial and often overstated , even if it is a useful shorthand.

Both poets, for example, did their poems from memory. Both were very different , but to both poets, it seemed to me, the music was as important as – or perhaps inseparable from – the meaning.  Alison Brackenbury’s poems were less alliterative, shorter, with simpler syntax and clearer argument than Saili Katebe’s. Yet her rhymes and forms, though subtle, were as clear as bells. Saili Katebe’s poems (by his own admission) invited us either to go ‘What did he say?’ or ‘Amen!’ Quite a lot of people actually went ‘Whoo!’ 

Let’s be careful not make boxes to put poets in. Let’s of course have all kinds of different poets and mediums for poetry. But good poetry is good poetry, and as concerned with language and it’s music (‘prosodic features’ if you prefer), wherever it is heard or read. Even Philip Larkin made recordings – though I think Alison Brackenbury and Saili Katebe would both have blown him off the Satellite of Love microphone stand. I think Sylvia Plath would have made a performer though.

Facebook – Alison Brackenbury,  Twitter @ABRACKENBURY , and her website  
Facebook  – Saili Katebe,  a.ka. The Blissful Nomad, Twitter @RovingRoshi

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