Monday, May 13
I call it a “Gig Review” – but it’s a poetry reading. Still, “Gig Review” seems to suit, poetry reading suggests something staid, safe, possibly boring. Not even the chance with one of the UK’s finest modern poetic voices – Luke Wright. Here for writers/readers festivals and Wellington was luck to seize on a chance Wright’s hour of (most definitely) strutting and – often – fretting on the stage was nothing short of electric.
A master of form, Wright had all the great hallmarks of a performance poet with none of the desperate gimmickry of a ‘slam’ act. Yes there was rhyme – dazzling, inventive, hilarious – and there were the swears, sure. But there was also historical ballads, and political commentary, deep examinations of class and divide and everything that’s contributed to the Brexit stalemate.
In a vulnerable bracket, Wright returned to the page, reading directly from his notebook to deliver poems composed in the last month. There was one for his mum – since the combative relationship between him and his father has been far easier to get down, and often for a laugh, at least for the audience.
It was a refreshing change of pace given the dazzle of his ability to read straight from the head (and always from the heart) was almost daunting at times.
Think of John Cooper Clarke’s great abilities and enduring legacy and add the confidence, wit and sneer of Stewart Lee.
The full virtuosity of Wright was best displayed with his single syllable poems – first one written in “the key of O” and a second “in U”. That a narrative could even emerge under such constraints is impressive enough – but in Luke Wright’s hands this makes for a brilliant mix of dead-eyed observation and brutal satire. I’d read the poems on the page and they popped – they bounced, the skill and wit so obvious. But to hear them live was something else.
One of the greatest performance poets I’ve ever seen. And heard. And felt.