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.

To the ghost ships

An ode to the ghost ships

Through the mists of a calamity
In a year we never asked for,
The long arm of our shoreline bay
Offered you anchorage at first only
For commercial reasons.

Yet your streamlined sleek and tower block decks
Formed a fleet of imaginary towns,
Dark horizon Christmas trees with an
Imaginary population, new neighbours.

In a world of sudden restrictions you became
A local secret, an impossibility of the soul,
A solace as onerous as the mournful horns
Adding an extra solemnity for remembrance,

Seeing out this accursed year, or those
Poor fishermen who would never return.
We can sing sweet lullabies, dainty and plaintive
Though none can compare to your industrial symphony,

A blast of the horn as unsubtle as anything!
On foggy mornings you layer the imagination,
Ethereal in the gloom your hulking gross tonnage
A link to a world beyond immediate geography,
Ghost ships, haunting the present with voyages past.

Image Ian Williams