Buddy can you spare a rhyme

Buddy Wakefield “Convenience Stores”

On Wednesday night at Cobalt Studios in Newcastle I went to Born Lippy. A night of spoken word, poetry, comedy with a bit of hip hop and Slam thrown in for good luck. The night is run by Don Jenkins and Tom Conway. This month’s was a special supported by Andi D.M.B./NightfallphotoApples and Snakes with as headline poet the three times world Slam champion Buddy Wakefield.

Buddy is a force that I have seen before, the first time was in 2004 at a night I ran at the Cumberland Arms. He had been touring around Europe and arrived in Newcastle suffering from a severe throat and chest infection. Despite the cough he was determined to go on and we loaded him up with throat lozenges and he took to the stage and gave a performance I have never forgotten. He took the room by the scruff of the neck and made it his own. His performance was electric. Last night in Newcastle he gave us an encore. 

It isn’t easy to describe Buddy’s poetry it is part spoken word, part story telling, it is his life written in beats and metre. His poetry takes no prisoners but his command of the stage does not leave you feeling alienated or sidelined. It draws you in to his world. It is clear he enjoys it, he feeds off it, it re-hydrates him.

When he performed the poem featured in the video Convenience Store every hair on my body stood on end, it was electrifying. I have been going to poetry events for a very longtime and you can get a bit cynical sometimes but poets like Buddy re-hydrate me as well. They make we want to be a better writer and make me realise I have a long way to go.

 His three books of poetry have been combined in to one collection called Stunt Walker

 Click here to get a copy of “Stunt Walker”

 

After Buddy left Newcastle in 2004, I wrote the following poem

 

Buddy can you spare a rhyme

 

He came coughing out of the waves of the North Sea

The phlegm of the journey rattling his bones

Blinking in the glaring spotlight

Looking across the stage and in to the interior

He saw the restless natives waiting

He had been told that Northern people

Were hard as cynicism and had eaten strangers

Swallowed them whole

Spat their eyes out, clean as morning

He planted his feet deep in their earth

Rooted like a Joshua tree

Filling his lungs with the vapour of lozenges

He gripped perfection by the throat

Shaking his juju in front of the faces

That peered at him through the smoke

He fired his first salvo across their bows

To the sound of tearing timber

Clawing at the red stained walls

Fusillade after fusillade crack the air like thunder

Soon, they danced the hornpipe to his tune

They were his now

They were his children

 

©Jeff Price Monday, 06 December 2004

 

 

 

The Matrix

Wheatus “Teenage Dirtbag”

This is a song for the outsiders, for the teenagers who are not sporty or a teacher’s pet. Like many of my chosen songs it has a story arc. It is the video as much as the song that sparked the memory recounted here.

In my teenage years there was a religious divide in the West End of Newcastle based around Catholic versus Protestant. Today the tapestry of divisions and misunderstandings is far more complex. Fear of the  “other”, those different to ourselves, led many people to vote for Brexit. Demanding that the “other” be stopped, curbed or banished.
wheatus

When I was growing up in the West-End of Newcastle in the fifties and early sixties I was part of a Catholic community that had its roots in Ireland. We had educational segregation and I was taught by nuns in my primary school and priests in the high school (not all teachers were priests and nuns but they dominated the management and culture of the school).

Our high schools were also divided so that girls went to one school and boys to another. This meant that we boys had little social interaction with girls and non Catholics. Non Catholics largely meant Protestant as at that time there were very few other alternative communities in Newcastle

The Brighton Cinema now a bowling Alley
The Brighton Cinema now a Bowling Alley

Our main opportunity to meet girls was either at the church youth club which meant the steely eyes of the priests would be watching you and if necessary report back to your parents, or there were the two cinemas.

The Plaza and the Brighton Cinema sat on opposite sides of the West Road.  To avoid clashes between the Catholic and Protestant youth there was an unofficial peace line along the West Road and we went to the Plaza on the north side and they went to the Brighton on the south. In 1960 the Plaza closed and this led to a few problems but in 1963 the Brighton changed from a cinema into a bowling alley and that’s when things turned ugly.plaza

After a number of minor clashes including me getting beaten up in the toilets of the bowling alley, a big confrontation took place in a local park. Looking back it seemed like hundreds were involved but it was probably no more than thirty or forty.

I remember there was a lot of posturing and shouting but very few actual clashes but the fighting that did take place was vicious. Later, we got together with our rivals and worked out a deal where we could each use the Brighton Bowling Alley on different nights.

Today there is a lot of talk about gang culture. In the sixties you felt being part of a gang or being seen as part of a community afforded you some protection. The reality was being in a gang lead to more trouble not less and not just with rival gang members but also with the Police.

It did however, teach me a valuable life lesson. Violence only brings more violence and rarely solves anything. By negotiating we found a solution and if we had done it before I would have saved myself a swollen jaw and a few loose teeth.

This weeks poem is about one of my daughters when she was a teenager.

The Matrix

 

In the living room four teenage girls talk

Conducting a complex matrix of interwoven conversations

In the corner of the room the television demands attention

I ask them politely to turn down the volume

My daughter tells me they would miss a favourite TV program

I suggest that watching a television is impossible

When they are all talking at once

My daughter informs me that woman can do this

Easily

I know better than to quibble with her

You can not argue with an article of faith

It forms part of her feminist catechism

Passed down from Mother to Daughter

Since the nineteen eighties

I retreat to the bathroom and wallow in the warm water

Turning up the radio to drown out the sound of the voices in my head

 

© Jeff Price April 2018