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Spilling Histories

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Success Stories

by Clare Potter

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Review by Deborah Fisher


ISBN 0 9549433 7 4
Cinnamon Press, 2006
64pp, paperback
Retail price 7.99

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If you haven’t heard of Clare Potter, that’ll be because you don’t go to see much live performance poetry. Thanks to her win in the 2004 John Tripp Spoken Poetry competition, Ms Potter has fast become one of Wales’s most successful performance poets. She impressed the judges at the John Tripp finals by paying tribute to Tripp in a poem she had written specially for the occasion. Not many poets can write to order with such effect. In search of…, with its oblique references to Tripp’s lifestyle and poetry ("a Bargoed boy/with a visa in his back pocket/for Tongwynlais and a belligerent/bluntness on ramshackled Wales") has become one of her most popular pieces, and features in her first published volume, Spilling Histories, launched by Cinnamon Press at the Wales Millennium Centre recently.

Her best-known poem and undoubtedly her most popular is Ladyfly. We marvel at the degree of empathy this Welsh-speaking Valleys girl shows with the tortured queen of the blues: Clare Potter becomes Billie Holiday as she describes Lady Day’s physical and mental suffering: "…and Billie smiles gardenia smiles/and sashays her hips/while her insides crave/another kind of demon". It all makes more sense when you discover that the poet spent a valuable seven years living and working in New Orleans, an environment that clearly stimulated her to development into the accomplished writer and performer she is now. She acknowledges that debt in Last Night in New Orleans, and in newer poems written since re-visiting the devastated city during 2006, such as Happy Hour Post Katrina.

Ms Potter is currently enjoying her first pregnancy, another life-changing experience to add to the raw material from which she creates her miniature works of art. Clearly, it has already had an impact. In After Doing a Pregnancy Test and After Coming Home to You, she explores the early weeks (she is, at the time of the launch, eight months gone). What more may she achieve when the enormity of motherhood adds itself to the warehouse of memory?