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Sutherland steals the show

I was admittedly not in the most receptive of moods to listen to poetry that evening. I was tired from working all day and, because of the short notice nature of the tickets, failed to bring someone along with me. Thus I was at eight o’clock in the evening sitting rather dolefully alone at the table nursing a drink. Perhaps because of that it was difficult at first to engage myself and listen to the poetry. Nevertheless I endeavoured to rouse my sluggish faculties and was rewarded with an entertaining evening of poetry varied in nature, tone and delivery.

Desperate for Love, a regular event at Komedia studio bar showcases the poetic talents of various wordsmiths. Tonight’s offerings included the likes of Neil Palmer, Sophie Robinson, Wolfy Jones, Alan Hay, Gary Goodman and the University of Sussex own Keston Sutherland. The YouTube clip of the latter reading his poem ‘Hot White Andy’ might be familiar to some, (although I confess not to me until I had googled Sutherland.)

The first half of the evening contained a number of small readings from Wolfy Jones, Gary Goodman and Alan Hay, ones which, if I’m honest, bypassed me in my post-work apathy. Longer pieces by Neil Palmer and Sophie Robinson proved to be more engaging. I enjoyed the calm tones of Palmer’s ‘Hillwaking’, a poem akin to a philosophical conversation, as well as the evocations of intimacy and loss in Robinson’s poetry.

What distinguished the evening for me however was the striking singularity and strangeness of Keston Sutherland’s reading; one that, in contrast to the others could truly be described as a performance, characterized by an agitated intensity, replete with jarring stops and starts, odd explosions of noise. I couldn’t tell whether Sutherland’s body language, twitchy, squirmy and jittery, apparent even as he walked onto the stage and prepared to read was affected as part of the performance, or evidence of genuine anxiety, (something that he confessed to the audience as the

result of having to read from a new collection). Whatever it was, the performance was one that was compelling and almost draining to watch in its intensity, an excellent conclusion to the evening.

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