Mark Gwynne Jones and the Psychicbread, the fusion of poetry and music
by Emma Roy-Williams
When I first arrived at the Martin Harris Centre I had no idea what to expect, but having been to quite a few poetry and spoken word nights I had a vague sense of dread. I adore good poetry, spoken with honesty and passion but there can be nothing worse than someone delivering mediocre poetry in a monotone voice. Imagine my surprise then, when my weary ears and jaded eyes came across the delight that is Mark Gwynne Jones and the Psychicbread, he was funny and entertaining and kept the audience rapt for nearly two hours.
At first he recited some poetry on his own with no self indulgent preamble just a willingness to put his rhythms between himself and the audience, the first poem, park life was about the myriad forms of life to be found when going about your business, and a poem about rage which he apologised for when he couldn’t summon up the correct amount of rage for his poem. “Sorry” he said, “I can’t be angry enough.” And how can he be angry? His benign manner shows no rage but a good amount of detached amusement at life.
After about twenty minutes on his own the Psychicbreads trudged on, trudge being the operative word particularly for Deb Rose the piano player who didn’t look too pleased to be on stage. No matter though because once the band sparked up they complimented Mark’s verse perfectly, all three musicians, ‘Nick the Hat’ on guitars, Sitar, Kora and vocals and John Thorne on drums worked like a band who had been performing together for a while, it was an instinctive and polished performance without losing any of its charm and authenticity.
A relationship between poetry and song lyrics has long existed but it is difficult to get the balance right between the music and words without one drowning out the other. To bring poetry alive with music, the music has to sit around the words, rather than the other way round. Someone like, Ian Brown for example will come up with a catchy tune and write something around this, but Mark Gwynne Jones places just as much importance on the poem as the tune.
So much poetry can verge in to self- indulgent naval gazing but some of the best poetry is simple and witty, without any pretence such as the poem about the girl who spent too long on a sun bed or a poem about indecision called the Barbarous Shop. Poetry which makes you laugh as well as think is some of the best poetry of all.
The only question left on my lips at the end of a wholly entertaining two hours was why wasn’t, Mark Gwynne Jones and the Psychicbreads included on the Manchester Literature Festival programme? Anyone who brings poetry alive the way, they do deserves to be on a programme pertaining to promote the joys of literature.