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Poet Luke Wright’s compulsive Silver Jubilee

Luke Wright’s Silver Jubilee at the Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford Playhouse on Friday, April 5

Review by JONLEWIS

Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee
Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee

POET Luke Wright, returning to the Burton Taylor Studio after many years, frames Luke Wright’s Silver Jubilee around poems in his book Are Murmurations Worth It?

Adopted as a baby by parents who named him after Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke, Wright’s poem Ode to the Nightingale Estate describes the area in Hackney he grew up in being demolished in a YouTube video, reflecting: ‘Did the naming committee/of well-to-dos have Keats in mind? The prettier/the name, the rougher the estate, they say.’

A happy upbringing and recent marriage to his social worker partner, beautifully evoked in Honeymoon at Weybourne, runs parallel to Wright’s quest to write about the untold stories of his adoptive parents and the imagined lives of his birth family.

In Stories from Zimbabwe, Wright meditates on his adoptive mother’s hard life in Zimbabwe where ‘your dad smashed up the kitchen/in a drunken rage’. She was determined that Luke would have a completely different childhood to hers, something Wright wants for his children.

Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee
Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee

Lighter poems, like Sir John Betjeman the Cat, is about Wright’s kitten who was also adopted after been abandoned by his mother after five weeks.

After reading a “late life letter” which provided details about his biological parents, Wright’s moving poem Finding My Birth Mother on Facebook depicts the semi-stalking of his unknown mother 10 years ago.

The poem interprets what his mother is like from the photos posted on the social media. Poignantly, he recites the double-edged lines: “Posing at a party with your sons. My brothers. The legend reads: ‘All the fam together’.” Wright’s demeanour and subsequent dialogue with the audience reflect his feelings of unknowable loss.

Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee
Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee

Wright is also playful. An early poem uses surrealist univocalism rules where only one vowel can be used in the poem, in this case ‘a’.

A political satire, it hilariously mixes words such as Karl Marx, WhatsApp and taramasalata without sounding false.

Wright revives this technique for his final poem, rewriting his late life letter in six other styles from Star Wars to Jonathan Pie and drum’n’bass.

Compulsive poetic storytelling.

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