I wouldn’t profess to being the world’s greatest fanatic of performance poetry so the heart sank a touch when I pitched up at Slak last night; J, A and I had arrived enthusiastically to view the very marvellous yodelling banjo-player Curtis Eller only to realise that the evening, part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, was to be dominated by a flurry of rhyming types. ‘It’s going to be a long evening,’ murmured J laconically after the first offering, a vaguely embarrassing ode about, well, weeing oneself by the first performer called, ahem, Dreadlock Alien. I could be acerbic and unkind about the whole verse scene but, actually, Mr Alien and his fellow bards, Lucy English and Steve Larkin proved rather entertaining. English was my favourite; her more personal offerings about youth, relationships and, er, underwear were quite moving and, in a bleak way, quaint and amusing. Larkin (frankly, a daft name for a poet) was a more aggressive performer but I admired his edge and anger. He yelled a lot but it all made good sense. Alien had a more hop-hip vibe about him and I appreciated his riddims ‘n’ style. Being made aware by Alien that the whole audience was white British was a wee bit thought-provoking. I thoroughly approved of all three versifiers and, well, it didn’t seem a long evening after all. It was, though, a different crowd to the usual Calmer* audience, a little bit bluer of the rinse methinks, but all and sundry were wooed by the ebullient charms of Eller, his gorgeous playing, nostalgic yet challenging subject matter, flamboyant elasticity and fine moustache. In the current climate, his sepia-tinged numbers, touched with an essence of the Great Depression, seemed especially vivid and, like the last time I saw him, I learnt plenty about the backwaters of American history. He’s great.