Ships in the Night [Review]

Image: Mark Wahlsten

Image: Mark Wahlsten

Words: Matt Siddall

Ships in the Night is a bi-monthly event where emerging and established writers have the chance to broadcast their work to a small audience.

Upon entering the intimate surroundings of the Rosemount Hotel’s Bar FourFiveNine, I was struck by its inviting and moody ambience. I was lucky that I got there in time just before the show was about to commence. After purchasing a glass of red, I then made myself comfortable and was enthusiastic for what I was about to hear.

The night started off with the atmospheric sounds of Sam Atkin, where the roughness of his distorted vocals and melodic synth beats seemed to engage with the natural conversations of the audience. Atkin’s set reacted organically against the confines of his surroundings; fighting with the audience for domination, yet taking the listener on a journey into unique inter-planetary dimensions.

Atkin’s performance was followed by the recitation of Dennis Venning’s story about a conflictual, time-warped farce between members of a family unit. Venning spoke with confidence and vivacity, commanding the full attention of the room despite the short length of his set.

Another highlight in the first half of the evening included Ashley Ramsey’s whimsical and eclectic re-enactment of internalized fantasies and vulnerabilities while reflecting on the nuances of love and sexuality. Ramsey’s poetry was beautiful, reminding me of past flings and vulnerabilities arising from short-lived relationships.

Richard M, who goes by the pseudonym of E.N., lulled the crowd with his tender ode to the fast-paced nature of lust, tinged with remnants of sensuality and the exploration of internal desire. Continuing from his feature on RTR 92.1 that morning, he delivered his work with a directedness that seemed to captivate the audience, and tug at their heartstrings.

An interval brought punk feminist band Fingernail to the stage, whose confident and unapologetic vocals were reminiscent of 1990’s third-wave feminist musical groups such as Bikini Kill. Their cover of Hole was a perfect showcase of their aggressive talent.

Geoff Lemon then took centre stage with a relaxed, confident performance. His calmness made the room feel at ease. It was arguably the highlight of the night. From a humorous poem with connotations about the anal region that had the whole room wiping away tears of laughter, to a heart-wrenching song about grief focusing on the loss of a loved one, which had some audience members shed a different kind of tear.

As the night’s final act, Lucy Dougan took to the stage, in a brief showcase of her work, she predominately focused on the intimate peculiarities of interpersonal connectivity, exploring the complexities of moments lost in time and objects of personal significance. Her poems were short and sweet yet packed with abundant detail, touching on poignant recollections of grief, longing and desire aided by the placid rhythm of her reassuring method of presentation. Overall, her work provided a perfect ending to the night.

I should also mention that there was an open mic segment following this, which included SJ Finch’s ode to the imagined copulation of two of the writers. The poem was explicitly detailed and definitely not safe for work, yet it was incredibly hilarious and well imagined in a short time period.

As the show concluded and the audience returned to their conversation, I reflected on my first Ships in the Night. It was intriguing, entertaining, and approachable.  It’s a wonderful showcase and platform for literary talent from Perth’s finest wordsmiths and beyond, and was a perfect introduction into the world of poetry readings.

It’s held every two months, and for those looking to mainline some culture with healthy doses of laughs and tears included in the ten dollar entry fee, I’d definitely recommend it.