New Words 2012

Review: Pearls and Tractors

John Mackie, Haworth Hodgkinson and friends perform poetry with music


Friday 14 September 2012

Original listing

Lastbus Works Canteen, New Pitsligo [Map]

John Mackie and Haworth Hodgkinson

A double launch of new chapbooks by John Mackie and Haworth Hodgkinson, two of the North East's most popular poets, took place in this absolutely wonderful venue nestling at the edge of New Pitsligo.

This was an excellent evening of collaborations, which married poetry to music with highly successful results: John Mackie, reading from his new chapbook Pearl Diving by Moonlight, proved a compelling performer, taking us on a poetic tour from Morocco over to North-East Scotland, via Paris, mapping the landscapes of love and death variously accompanied by the great songwriter Gavin Sutherland on acoustic guitar, Drew Jarvie on Miles Davis-esque flugelhorn, Kris Orskov on sarod and "folk festival regular" and "weel kent face" Clive on flute and thumb piano.

Vicky McCann, John Mackie and Drew Jarvie

I thoroughly enjoyed his performance of The Waters of Islam with repeated lines lending a meditative quality to the poem, reminding me of Van Morrison's vocal lines on Astral Weeks, the eastern theme of the poem being heightened by the sarod playing of accompanist Kris.

John Mackie is an enigmatic poet and is a gracious compere of his own performances, thanking each guest musician in turn like a true rock'n'roll veteran.

Haworth Hodgkinson performed Tractor Bastard in its entirety accompanying himself on gongs, djembe, melodica, musical tubes, and a variety of woodwind and percussion instruments.

Haworth Hodgkinson

If John Mackie is in thrall to jazz, blues and folk influences, it could be said that Haworth Hodgkinson is inextricably welded to the avant garde. His quirky delivery suits his material very well, and his choice of instrument suits the mood of each poem. He excels with poems like Sleepsong, a chilling lullaby based on a Picasso painting, and the tar black humour of Fidelity Test, a poetic tale of dogskin buoys.

I particularly enjoyed Stone to Ice where Catriona Yule performed the poem while Haworth created a cacophonous soundscape with the variety of gongs.

A special mention goes to the video Roller Ghoster, a collaboration between Fiona Soe Paing and Zennor Alexander, which was shown in the middle of the show.

The Cafe

Featuring the electronica-based soundtrack from Fiona Soe Paing and artwork from Heather Wilson that graces Haworth's chapbook cover, the image of the child's face popped up continually throughout the video, as we hurtled at breakneck speed on our phantasmagoric rollercoaster ride, bypassing cut-out shapes, clouds, tunnels and landscapes. Phew, it was amazing!

What an evening, an inspired collaboration between poets, musicians and a film maker, and, not forgetting, a stunning venue.

Review by Mark Pithie

Photos by Cal Wallace

More images from Pearls and Tractors

Promoted by

North East Writers

Supported by

Lastbus Works Canteen
Malfranteaux Concepts


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