Luke Wright, Poet & Man

The poet, Tim Turnbull, once opined that the difference between stand-up comedians and performance poets was that the poets try to make money by selling their books during the intervals while the comics “just want to be loved… like dogs”.

A good point well made, but there are other differences too. It’s a matter of punctuation: the stand-up comedian must annexe his sentences with a shrill exclamation mark if he’s to get the belly laughs he’s after. The performance poet or the humourist can get away with a humble full-stop and is happy with a few nods of agreement and the occasional isolated chuckle in the darkness.

A stand-up comedian would never orate someone else’s work either (unless he happens to be Joe Pasquale). Repetition of another’s material is comedian kryptonite. But Luke Wright, as performance poet, boldly goes there.

The set, as the audience enters the room, consists of a bookcase and an occasional table stocked to the gills with excellent books. From Kafka to Harry Potter and The Bible to Zadie Smith, it’s all there. Breaking up the flow of his own poetry, Luke reads selected paragraphs, humourous and profound, from his favourite books with energy and a passion.

I see in the bookcase that there is a copy of ‘The Idler’ magazine in which I published my first essay. “Go on!” I tell the poet telepathically, “Read it!” Alas, no dice. He decided to read Goethe or something instead. There’s no accounting for taste.

The theme of the evening is masculinity (which explains why my piece got overlooked) and the selected pieces from his library highlight ideas discussed in Luke’s own works. His poems apparently derive from real-life experiences concerned with symbols of masculinity: his car, his childhood friends, his working class origins in Colchester “where not a lot of culture stirs”, his less-than-manly role as a poet and his the problems associated with “big gay face”. What emerges is the portrait of a culture-thirsty, eager-to-entertain, slightly socially awkward young man. It’s good and one can tell that poetry is therapy to Mr. Wright.

As an entire it works rather well. What works less well is Luke’s ad-libbed attempts at stand-up connecting everything together. His hubris isn’t quite ironic enough to make you laugh and you’re left feeling a little awkward for it. But this aside, his show is a five-star performance.

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