Observations: Mercy beat's poetry in motion

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The Independent Culture

Has performance poetry got something to learn from pop music? Mercy thinks so: the Liverpool arts collective have been teaming some of the city's best young poets with its most innovative musical exports for some special one-off events.

Tomorrow sees its latest London outing, "Wave If You're Really There", the sixth in a series of church-based performances, each drawing on a different religious ritual, in this case baptism. Among those immersing themselves in the holy waters of St Leonard's, Shoreditch will be poet Ross Sutherland collaborating with the troubadour Eugene McGuinness and music from Wave Machines.

"Too many poetry nights have a low level of ambition, as if they're saying, "We know you don't like poetry but we're going to give you the simplest stuff and it won't be on for long'," says creative director Nathan Jones, 28, whose own poetry will be accompanied by London Sinfonietta pianist Sarah Nicholls. "We want to present something more confident, lush and decadent that hooks up with the expertise and professionalism of pop music."

Starting life seven years ago as an arts zine, Mercy now numbers more than 30 dedicated creatives working between Liverpool and London. The in-house design team produces cover art for many of the area's bands who in turn lend their sheen to Mercy's live events.

"We're about teaming the right artists with each other to make creative products that transcend genres," says Jones. "A book isn't always the best place to put a poem. It's the inter-disciplinary approach to the arts which excites us."

Just don't call it the new Mersey Sound. "That cliché of the Liverpool pop-poet is something we have to shrug off each time it comes up," he says. "Adrian Henri was doing some crazy live-art things. But Roger McGough and Brian Patten we're not."