On the 30 November it was the last Tuesday of the month, meaning, of course, I was at The Hope and Ruin ready for Hi Zero, as usual. This month the venue welcomed three unique poets showcasing their work, Gizem Okulu, David Grundy and Nat Raha.

Hi Zero have been running their poetry readings in Brighton since 2011 at The Hope and Ruin. Joe Luna, poet and professor at Sussex University, organised the event, initially alongside support of Eleanor Careless. Supported by the School of English and the Centre of Modernist Studies at Sussex, it is a poetry event that the University community embrace and enjoy.

I myself am no Hi Zero expert, having only been to two of the #64 poetry evenings they have ran, meaning I was able to experience Hi Zero with a fresh pair of eyes, experiencing the novelty and welcoming atmosphere for the first few times. At each event, Hi Zero mostly remains the same, running on its well-loved features. Even if at first sight everything appears to be the same as the last, it is the small differences that give it an exciting feel. With different poetry to experience at each event, there is always more to learn.

I felt happy to notice that, the same as previous events, I could find the latest poetry zines and the authors’ publications spread at a table by the entrance. The novelty was the new zine Scaffold, exclusive to Hi Zero, edited by Mitchel Pass and containing poetry from Tom Allen, Kat Sinclair, and many more exciting poets. I also picked Raha’s Countersonnets and left the desk, ready for the event to begin. Although there were other zines on offer, I couldn’t manage to squeeze them all into my bag, much to my dismay.

Keeping the same intimate atmosphere from last time, we were almost in the dark with a light fencing the poets bodies and on the black wall behind them was a printed reminder of the host. Joe Luna was there as normal to introduce the acts for the event.

The first poet to speak was Gizem Okulu, famous for authoring Too Sliced for Landing and Master Island. She then embarked on her twelve minutes poetry presentation, which gave listeners a melancholic feeling of loneliness and the vertigo of unwritten future, especially when she described:

‘When I sing a lullaby on double-decker buses jumping from one train to another, then I smell a perfume that my mother wore for years, where am I going?’

Moving from Mexico to Brighton myself, I was familiar with the loneliness that she is recounting, giving me some comfort in her fictitious landscape.

After a fifteen minute intermission, David Grundy took to the stage. The powerful fragility of his writing was reflected in the emotional performance of his poetry. His hands physically shaking he read: “trees that grow inside, breakout painful“. This reading made me want to seek out more of his poetry, as I was inspired by his strong and influential sensitivity.

The final performer was Nat Raha, who entered the stage accompanied by a button on her jacket, reading: “decolonise and moisture”, which I read as strong statement of her political stance. Using musical equipment, she recorded short excerpts of her speaking and repeated them throughout her performance, giving her poetry a multi-layered rhythm and voice. These layers gave her thirty minute performance a full energy, but I found that some of the meaning of the poetry was lost on me. However, this is what I enjoyed about her performance, as she had created something so complex that you had to revisit it to truly penetrate it. In her written work, the visual aspects, such as her breaks on the page, are so important that she verbalises these symbols when speaking on stage. The most visceral performance I saw on the night, her success stemmed from her originality.

Alongside the monthly Hi Zero poetry evenings, they have also launched a reading group, giving people the chance to study and discuss the poems prior to the event. This will give people, especially those not familiar with a lot of poetry, a heightened meaning of the written word before the performance.

With a different Hi Zero event running each month, we do not need to wait long before being able to experience more refreshing poetry readings. 

Join Hi Zero on 27 November to hear exceptional poetry from Andy Spragg, Dominic Hale and Daisy Behagg.

Roxana Xamán McGregor: Chevening Scholar, Masters at Sussex University 

Image Credit: Flickr, Steve Johnson

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