Shift is a collective of poets that includes Rachel Amey, Bram Gieben, Harry Giles, Jenny Lindsay, Ali Maloney, Rachel McCrum and Sam Small. Each night of the week one of them presents a solo piece.
Like the best of page poetry, McCrum’s poems need to be puzzled over and unpicked to be fully appreciated.
On this evening I saw Rachel McCrum perform Do Not Alight Here, a reflectively lyrical piece inspired by her home by the sea. The show is a mellifluous blend of her dulcet Irish tones, a lilting audioscape with strings and a slideshow of gorgeous pictures of a deserted coastline.
Although she introduces each poem, it is hard to distinguish between them as she doesn’t give their titles. This doesn’t matter much: the poems are meant to be heard together and listening to them is like floating away on the tide or strolling along a lonely beach. She layers beautiful descriptions with gentle, thought-provoking statements.
The work is largely focussed on memory, family ties and a sense of belonging. Through descriptions of remembered family adventures – ‘never were we so glad to see the southern coast line’ – she finds the magic in everyday memories. ‘In the harbour we shoved cheese rolls in our mouths sideways’. Sometimes the verse teeters over the edge into being slightly sentimental and occasionally the verse is too oblique for spoken word.
Like the best of page poetry, McCrum’s poems need to be puzzled over and unpicked to be fully appreciated. She anchors her performance by asking and trying to answer three questions: Where am I? Where am I going? and How will I get there? This gently provokes the audience to ask similar questions of themselves. Do Not Alight Here isn’t all high thoughts and hilltops: there are lighter moments where she laughs as much at herself as the people around her.