Feedback from Stephen Payne, 2 May, 2016Poems that think, and think about thinking’ is how Stephen’s poems are described in Pattern beyond Chance. They’re not always easy to grasp from a single hearing though far from being dry, they often have covert humour. All repay re-visiting.Even his starter, ‘The Scientific Method’ needs intellectual alertness. It’s about relationships, father/daughter, adult/childrens’ books, but the main thrust examines exceptions to a rule, how they can lead to greater truths.This sort of quest is typical. Imagine yourself in the shoes of a cyclist whose advertising job requires him to balance without movement – shifting a little from pedal to pedal in an insistent effort against the norm? Does this sound familiar?Stephen’s third poem rested on tricks played with statistics and probability. ‘Dyslexia’ (‘a hard thing to explain to an eight-year old’) comes from a section in which each poem is centered on a single word.‘Girl on the Stairs’ (Mind section) has immediate impact as well as an echo of aftermath. ‘Life in the Day’ (Time section) is a jet-set through a lifetime, its social and material advances crammed into 31 uneven lines.Stephen’s language is playful in sound and pattern. From time to time, the whole room was reduced to laughter. I can’t remember whether it was directly kindled by a poem. But those who came found the evening relaxing and stimulating in equal measure. It’s his argument that beguiles; the twist his poems take, with a touch of wit for the irony discovered. ‘The saying’s / point is that it’s possible / to overthink things. (Translating the Proverb). Stephen said it took a Japanese visitor to help him with this conundrum. Elsewhere, ‘thinking about conversations / where what matters least / is what gets said..’ (Riders on the Storm) reflects on the tombstones in a Parisian cemetery. Finally, we were in Penarth with its dolled-up pier and understructure marked by seagull shit. With a hint on nostalgia for a place that links the poet with his past. * By chance, we’ve hosted two consecutive poets who have found inspiration in science. Both with a good deal more grace than Edgar Allen Poe in ‘Sonnet to Science’. Admittedly, psychology is a different sort of starting point from what Poe made of the Industrial Revolution. Carlos Williams’ ‘The Term’ takes up the theme of the pattern in our short lives, in a particularly lyrical way. Ted Hughes’ ‘The Horses’ is an old favourite, a dynamic interplay between man and beast. Nine poems read by their author-poets included a beauty from Christine Webb who read to us in 2013. It began with starlings and ended with her bird-watching sister. Sally L took us to planet earth (Pale Blue Dot) through a visual canvas to personal insight. ‘We are still travellers / Learning to know ourselves / Refugees stranded on our pale blue dot.’ John made two offerings. It was a delight to hear Nigel and Pol join him in Malcolm Bailey’s recording of his mini-play. This is based on the historical advances of astronomy. ‘Team 8’ brought us up to date with comments from an assistant peregrine falcon spotter, and the reception to him on U-tube. Polly took us on a 71/2 hour electronic excursion (On Downloading Windows 10) that pirhouetted through all the nonsense information her computer screen came up with en route. I gave an impression of our great grandmother’s personality in rhymed triplets (Cricket). Maureen brought a spiritual rhymed sonnet (Be Not Afraid) and an equally contemplative meditation from a Quaker Monthly Magazine.