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The Poets’ Nook: ‘Talisman Poetry’, Swansea

Image credit: Laura Potts

Talisman Poetry, Tino’s Cafe and Wine Bar, 11 Wind Street, Swansea. 

It was a few weeks ago that I visited the Talisman Poets in the rich springing heart of Swansea, and on this occasion I’d been invited to be their feature poet, the headliner of the night.

It can always be daunting to enter a place where you are the outsider from that foreign country called England, and where you know few faces. But now, looking back, the sheer quality and vibrance of that night led to write at one point in my notebook, in wild capital letters, ‘THIS IS PERFORMANCE AND PASSION’.

This distinction is important: some writers can read their work, but others can also perform. And the Talisman Poets, alive in the spring of their fresh creativity, provided the best performances I have ever heard at a local open-mic.

Located in Wind Street, the famous haunt of poet Dylan Thomas, Tino’s Cafe boasts an atmosphere which is sleek and yet humbly homespun in its display of local artwork lining the walls.

This is no oddity in Swansea: here, the locals do not just live Wales, but breathe it. There is major pride for hometowns and Welsh heritage. Its people live Dylan, the Welsh mountains, and the animals which shape them. And the creative arts scene is so healthy, brimming with talent. It is rare to find this much local passion for poetry on such a large scale.

Talisman Poetry has, admirably, risen out of its infancy: initially formed of five or six writers, the evening now attracts a very healthy 30+, and it is credit to its organisers for its growing popularity. The appeal of the night is obvious in the age range of writers there: from young to old, these budding artists possess a form of creativity charged to its finest degree.

The evening saw around twenty-five writers take to the microphone to share what, really, was very personal and advanced work. If you’re an aspiring writer in the South Wales area looking for the right atmosphere not just to read in but also to improve in, Talisman is the place.

Poets, musicians and songwriters are here, to name just a few. Writing is rooted firmly in the homelands of Gower, Swansea, and Llansteffan, but here is an audience willing to sit, to listen and, most importantly, to respond.

Eight of the Ten Swansea Writers
Eight of the Ten Swansea Writers

But not only this. The spirit of Talisman’s writing, testament to its supportive atmosphere, can be glimpsed in the formation of the Ten Swansea Writers and the launch of their first publication this year in Swansea, London, and New York. A band of newly-fledged poets, prose-writers and musicians, the Writers find in Swansea’s sea and streets their muse: a landscape mapped by contemporary art, thriving music, and progressive poetry. Eight of the ten Writers were present that night, a testimony to their dedication to spoken word.

It was here that I found the home of current politics approached through progressive art: the burkini controversy, the effects of the Ebola Virus, and the Labour Party split all raised their heated heads through words. And later, while raising a glass to the everyman’s drudge through the working day, one writer bewailed the bittersweet ‘woes of wine’.

Thumbs-up to Talisman’s organiser David Churchill, himself one of the Ten Swansea Writers and ever-attentive to his audience. Providing sensitive and constructive comments, he is attuned to keeping feedback short and sweet, to engaging his listeners, and to coordinating the whole evening.

So enjoy some cake and homemade red wine. This is storytelling, not narrating, at its very best.

Talisman Poetry takes place on the first and last Wednesday of each month, 8-10pm. Next night: 28th September 2016.