A short tribute to Ellie Davies

As with many on the Devon performance poetry, I was saddened to hear this week of the passing of Ellie Davies. Ellie was such a staunch supporter of the local poetry and spoken word scene that it seems inconceivable that she wont be there when gigs start properly in earnest again. Ellie was such a warm, caring and supportive person, and her company was always cheerful. Many have attested to her innate kindness and encouragement.

This probably isn’t the place to go into too many details, suffice to say Ellie had to deal with a lot over the last decade, including illness. But she never complained, not even once. If you were to ask how she was, she would turn the subject back, and dismiss her problems with a wave of her hand, and a smile, and a laugh.

And it’s that laugh which I will miss the most. She was such a good audience member, helping build up the energy in the room by laughing and joining in, enthusiastic and infectious.

Her own poems demonstrated a soul whose interest were very definitely human. She wrote about emotions and feelings with a deftness and subtlety which were then delivered on stage in her Birmingham accent. A lot of her poems were serious and spoke of serious issues but always with that simplicity of language and imagery. Other poems were hilarious, she had a fine comic touch which will be missed.

I knew Ellie long before I began performing. She was a member of a Writers’ Group, which is where we first met. We would meet every two weeks and read stories or poems and Ellie was always very encouraging. I was only young at the time, (my mid twenties), and I cringe to think of some of the things that I used to read to the group back then, but Ellie was always supportive, and again, there was that wonderful laugh which lit up the room. This would have been around 2004-2005, judging by my diaries.

In 2008 I went to a night of performance poetry at the Blue Walnut Cafe in Torquay. I had no idea what performance poetry was, so I went along to watch feeling very nervous. But then a familiar voice came from the table next to the window, and it was Ellie. Not only was she there, but she was one of the performers too, and it was that night which kickstarted my interest in performance poetry and spoken word. Of all the people I have met in the spoken word community, it was Ellie who I knew the longest.

A while ago Ellie moved to a flat not far from my own, and she would invariably offer me a lift to gigs in Torquay at the Blue Walnut or the Artizan Gallery. I remember once she had a new car, which she called, ‘Roger the Rover’, which had to be reversed up a very narrow lane to get to her flat. And she would laugh as she drove, that familiar laugh coming from behind the steering wheel as we grazed dustbins and wheelie bins so that the car was pointing in the right direction for the next time that she needed it.

Ellie loved life, and she loved people. She was wonderfully forthright in her views and nothing would hold her back when she saw injustice or bullying. And most of all, she loved poetry and the things that could be done with literature.

Suffice to say, Ellie will be very much missed by everyone who knew her.

No change in status, a poem about Tokyo

No change in status

Midnight in Tokyo, the hotel reception
Too opulent for jet lagged eyes,
This fool holds breath as from speakers,
The Blue Nile’s Tinseltown in the Rain,
An unusual choice in this disjointed dance.
I’ve hardly seen the neon and it’s almost
Tomorrow and there’s a problem with my booking.

Which makes me wonder who I even am,
Because the computer does not recognise my
Existence, and the receptionist explains that
Luckily there’s a spare room on the 36th floor,
No longer quite so happy so lucky so chipper,
And I’m admitted entry but I must promise to pay,
Mister, Mister, Mister . . . Sorry,
What was your name again?

The following day I begin to disappear, which
Makes shaving quite difficult, and I slide
Through the lift doors down across the marble foyer,
Find an adjacent supermarket and buy
For breakfast but it comes with chopsticks and there’s
A boiled egg plonked in the middle.

Ghosting through the Ginza several months
Too early for cherry blossom, I forget my name
In the crowded lanes, become translucent like a
Discarded thought in front of a travel agent
Advertising holidays in FUCKING PAIGNTON I KID YOU NOT,
And then in this city of technology and robots to a
Tourist office on the 15th floor of a skyscraper
Run by a Nanna and Grandad who pass me a free map
As if it were a precious gift and I bow on receiving.

The coffee shop patrons are taken aback.
You can see the coffee and muffin pass right through me.
It’s impolite to stare and it really doesn’t help matters
That I keep humming Tinseltown in the Rain,
Even though there isn’t any tinsel
And it was perfectly dry though somewhat overcast.

The wind sighs, ‘Have you ever been?’,
And I reply, ‘I am being now’,
And the wind sighs, ‘Are you being now?’
And I reply, ‘Have I ever been?’
And the wind sighs, ‘That’s only for you to
Decide, oooooooohhhhhhhhh’, and I really get it
That people think there are other worlds.

Isn’t it the dream of every spirituality to become
Nothing but a thought?
I achieved it so well that they might think about
Dedicating a place of worship in my honour, except
By now I had no name and I’ve never been a big one
For shopping, or drinking, or sexual conquests, so
I wasn’t even just another geezer on the Ginza.

A certain stylised frisky-whispered kitty cat in a bow tie
Explained via speech bubbles that the building to my left
Escaped being bombed by the Americans.
That thing I had this morning with the boiled egg in it was
Actually quite nice, and I texted a friend back home and
He replied, ‘I can see right through you’.

I’d always wanted to be a nobody, but now I was a no body
And it was the most weight I’d ever lost in one go.
Maybe this whole thing would have been better if I’d shared it
With you. I’ve walked around so many cities solo, like
Prague, and Reykjavik, Singapore, Lancaster, and never
Once heard The Blue Nile played as if they were
Just like any other band, gotta hand it to them.

‘No change in status’, said the lady on reception,
By which time I must have been merely a
Distortion of reality, a blurring where my outline
Would have been, an opaque mistake, and I rode
The elevator to the 36th floor and someone was playing
Bagpipes and you know really it hadn’t been a bad day
With the exception of my gradual philosophical psychological
Complete super disappearance.