Biddy Mulligans, Hamilton
Scream Blue Murmur – the name of the group says a lot. There is passion, combined with unexpected tenderness and delightful wit. Theirs is an engaging mix served up by an exquisite blend of voices, complimenting and contrasting with each other. The voices are a blend that rhythmically builds from individually whispered confession to melodic trios to a kind of full force, blast furnace acapella – the poem in question Sun Brown King performed without actual song, or actual music and yes you have to participate.
The poetry is sublime. Some phrases still stay with me – the poets were “a few syllables too late” for 1968, but their show brought 1968 to 2008, so we “won’t be too late for the next one.”
“I have a nightmare I have a nightmare I have a nightmare” is repeated throughout one of the three poems that respond to Martin Luther King’s life and death. Richly, the three poems respond in three different ways: despair, hope and stirring determination — “There’s a certain kind of fire no water can put out”.
So, go hear the music in the voices of the poetry of this group. You’ll be entertained, moved and inspired and you may just be fighting for weeks to get the tune of Sun Brown King out of your head.
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Tribune, Palmerston North
Five world-class poets – Scream Blue Murmur (previously known as Belfast Poets Touring Group) – brightened our lives at a PNRA public meeting in the Council Chamber on a rainy Sunday afternoon last month. These young people performed their poems on the theme of the year of 1968 with energy and humour, making the audience part of the act.
They shook me to the bone and I’m sure they did the same to the others present. It was a good informative and entertaining afternoon. The Belfast Poets have winged their way out of New Zealand but the words they spoke remain: I quote, “So someone please explain to me what’s wrong with loving where you live and thinking that for all we take its only right that we should give. Can someone please point out to me what’s wrong with love for fellow man and wanting them to have the best life they possibly can”.
It was great to see the council chamber used other than for boring speeches by councillors. I’ll end this item with a few words from ‘Phatbob’; “Or stand up next to history’s best. Cash, Brown, Luther- King; invest in something for a time to come… Ideals as bright as searing suns… That treachery we stand and face, silence betrays this Human race”.
Peter Wheeler PNCC Councillor & Chairperson of the PN Residents Association NZ
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WEDNESDAY 23rd July
lecture room Atrium AT2 University of Albany
Every time I teach the Creative Writing paper here at Massey Auckland, I like to try something a little bit different – I guess for my own sake as much as yours. Keeping it fresh, I suppose. This year it was Scream Blue Murmur (aka the Belfast Poets Touring Group). What I had in mind was that they could help to shock fledgling poetry students out of the notion that poetry is something locked down on a page, rather than something that happens when you let a lot of ideas fight it out among themselves.
The theme for the show they were touring, 1968, was an excellent chance for these young Irish poets to show their mettle. In poetry duets, quartets, quintets and solos they played a series of intricate variations on the undercurrents of that turbulent year, and the strange ways in which it rhymes with our own disordered present (I was particularly amused by PhatBob’s invocation of the musicians releasing albums in 1968: Van Morrison, the Beatles, the Stones – followed by the list for 2008: “Girls Aloud”?)
Sexual politics, Civil Rights, the student insurrection in Paris (“Sous les pavés, la plage!” [under the paving-stones, the beach]) – the main points were all there. I guess my one criticism would have to be that the show ended too soon. I’d have liked poems about Mayor Daley’s “white riot” at the Democratic convention in Chicago, the Prague Spring, the summer of love in San Francisco … The fact that I could start to imagine these add-ons shows just how much I got caught up in the spirit of the carnival.
The problem now is, what can we possibly find as good for next year’s class?
A brilliant respite from the Desert Road
Scream Blue Murmur, the performance poetry ensemble once known as the Belfast Poets Touring Group supplied a Wellington audience with an evening of poetry to remember at the Happy Bar on Monday night.
The audience, some of whom had to wait two nights to hear the poets, on Saturday night they were to appear at the Wellington Irish Society but were trapped in the snow on the Desert Road that forms part of the landscape between Auckland and Wellington, were treated to a show which at times was literary, at times raucus and at other times something approaching vaudville.
Some of the highlights were the poems about Paris 1968, performed in concert in French and English, the equally moving Duke Street about the struggle for civil rights in Northern Ireland and the emotive set of poems, independently written, but also performed in concert about Martin Luther King and his place in the rapidly fading American Dream.
Long after the poetry had finished the crowd was still there with the tune of Sun Brown King ringing in the ear and very strangely, the memory of the unique 60’s pop star Tiny Tim revisited.
Not quite poetry, this was something much better.
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The truly wonderful Scream Blue Murmur, a performance poetry group from Belfast, have been tiki touring around the North Island for 3 weeks, and gave their last performance tonight, in a University lecture theatre.
They bring a style of performance poetry not seen in Kiwiland – deeply felt, socially conscious poetry, and yes, dare I say it, political. (This is not to say that we don’t do socially conscious poetry here. We do – and it is deeply felt – but it just doesn’t go as deeply and broadly through history and theme as their stuff does.)
They also do a lot of weaving in and out with rhythm and narrative, and their work is quite unlike that of the Literatti, the only Auckland equivalent. They don’t have much recorded background music, but generate a sharp background during performance in the form of beats or chants, even getting the audience to join in. I doubt Sun Brown King could be conveyed properly without the actual physical experience and watching them generally is like participating in some sort of humanistic ritual, oddly uplifting, even though the subject matter is dark – discrimination, racism, misunderstanding, war.
The five poets in Scream Blue Murmur – who put themselves on the line financially to pursue their dream of touring the world with their poetic messages – are all very different in terms of personality, as are their poems. But somehow they manage to blend together (though they tell me that they do have their disagreements while rehearsing) to form a thought-provoking mosaic of images.
The visitors also generously invite local poets to perform with them wherever they go, so on their last stop, I was one of the guests, as were Shane Hollands and Miriam Barr. And it was a good gig, even if the lecture theatre seemed ginormous and the lights rather clinical – a good response from the mainly student crowd (my Peter Brown poem is getting quite a lot of outings at the moment,to much reaction).
It’s so good to see visitors in little Auckland, from another part of the poetry sphere. (It’s not as isolated here as you might think actually). And I haven’t even mentioned the work that these guys do in terms of “linking”.
They started a worldwide poetry event called Love Poetry Hate Racism (Auckland was one of over 30 cities to take part this year). And they also go out of their way to make personal connections and offer a reciprocal tour to those poets lucky enough to see their show. Hope to see them again soon!
Auckland Poet and Playwright