What I Know About Women So Far - Free

Mon 8th – Thu 25th August 2011

reviews

Dominic Sowa

at 09:12 on 24th Aug 2011

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The spoken word is not really what people see as the defining image of the fringe. Thoughts travel to comedy and theatre in particularly. However according to poet Young Dawkins it is the fastest growing element of the fringe. Dawkins is a regular of the Scottish performance poetry scene and his show, What I Know About Women So far epitomises the exciting future of this genre as it moves into the mainstream from the fringe of the fringe.

In a small, intimate space, Dawkins takes the audience on an entertaining poetic journey. Although billed as an exploration of his experiences and understanding of women, it is more an autobiography laced together and structured with but not exclusive to his relations with women. Dawkins loves life. You can see it in his youthful grin and cheeky expression. It is also evident that for Dawkins, a love of life is symbiotic with his love of women.

His poetry is deep, raw and highly revealing. It is rightfully compared by the author himself to confessional poetry that shocked the American public and recreated the rules of poetry in the 1950s. This change helped galvanise the emerging beat generation to whom he swears allegiance. His poetry is built around his autobiographical narration that gives contextual sense to his selected poetic input. In what is essentially a fun and light-hearted look on his life, the narration as well as the poetry are full of snippets of intimate details from his life, his loves and the many women he has encountered.

Strongly in the tradition of the beat poetry of the 1950s (he is a beat revivalist for goodness sake), following the revolutionary verse of the likes of Ginsberg and Kerouac, his poetry is uninhibited and unrestricted by formal and social constraints. However it is not vulgar but rather refreshing, honest and very tender. It is as charming as the man himself.

He is highly attentive to his audience, quickly and easily creating an air of comfort and community around his words that bring the congregation into a pleasant shared experience and understanding of the poet. In another move that brings him closer to the originators of the beats, he incorporates music into his poetry reading. The music, improvised by the Click Clack Club band, is a perfect accompaniment to his delivery. The mixture of music and poetry that is the second half of his performance develops the climactic drama of the piece. It is full of eerie and soulful sounds as well as brash and joyful jazzy sounds that bring out a certain finesse and emotional energy from his words as well as create the atmosphere from times gone past.

Although the piece aims to explore Dawkins’ ever developing understanding of women, I feel it could be seen as more of a recital cum narration that focuses upon the history of his poetic movement, the beats. Some of his original desires seem to have become lost in his passion to recreate the bygone worlds of his poems. He places himself into a definable and historic context rather than sticking without much deviation to his exploration of his relationship to women. Dawkins is an acclaimed poet and his work speaks for himself, and although this is a riveting and moving experience and one to see, it could have been hoped that he would have entered more deeply into his true passion for women.

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Imogen O'Sullivan

at 12:28 on 24th Aug 2011

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As I make my way downstairs in the Royal Oak, unsure of where I’m going or what I’ve come to see, I’m ushered into my seat by a friendly old man who, after arranging some chairs for an audience, and having a bit of a chat, turns out to be Young Dawkins, the Scottish performance poet who is to take the stage. This warmth and genuine pleasure in connecting with his audience is what made the hour I spent in his company so exceptionally enjoyable. What is apparent throughout is how much he loves what he does, this show is him; it’s his life, it’s his soul, and he wants us all to share in it, and that I find simply beautiful.

If this review seems a bit rose-tinted and romantic, that’s simply the effect Dawkins can have. I left the pub determined to become a Beatnik; sit in a jazz cafe listening to poets, smoking cigarettes from a holder and talking about the beauty in the world, and, although I actually ended up in a Starbucks and don’t smoke, spending an hour with this self-confessed optimist and romantic was one of the nicest experiences of my festival. Nice is the best way to describe it; Dawkins was warm, friendly and incredibly interesting. I could have just listened to him lecture about his life for hours and stayed engaged, the fact that occasionally I had trouble distinguishing between his speech and his poetry merely emphasising the genuine heart behind his work - he believes in what he’s saying and that’s wonderful to watch.

The premise of a show arguably based around his relationships with women could have bordered on the chauvinistic, but the ‘love’ he confesses for all women is genuine and is impossible to take offence to. The detailed backdrop he gave to confessional poetry and the Beat movement was a fascinating introduction to his own work and allowed for those with no prior knowledge of this area to enjoy it as much as anyone else, crossing barriers of age and gender by simply being honest and interesting without ever appearing patronising.

I found this piece very difficult to review, as hearing about Dawkins’ life and witnessing his obvious talent made me feel drastically underqualified and inexperienced in comparison. All I can say is that he was affectionate, passionate, fascinating, soothing, perceptive and intelligent, and for all these reasons I would happily spend another hour in his company, just listening to him talk, recite his work, and, hopefully, play the harmonica again.

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