I first got the news by text, at 8.40 in the morning. I double-checked it on Facebook and phone and eventually realised it was true. But I still couldn’t really believe Mark was dead, because he was the last person I could ever imagine dying….
Not just in his performances, but in his conversation,in his writing, in everything, his life energy was there, keen-edged, mercurial. I had seen him, just weeks ago, at Spoken Word Saturday.
To never see him again seemed, well, impossible.
I first bumped into him in Swansea years back at a Howl poetry night in Mozarts, in the dark, fin-de-siecle, sticky–floor decadence that was Mozarts’ trademark. In the gloomy back room, Mark’s lanky, loose-jointed frame seemed too tall for the place. And then once he started speaking, started using his voice, you realised you were in the presence of a rare talent. Yes, he was a poet and storyteller, and a strikingly original writer,
but he was also a full-on actor. Some poets will read their poetry. Mark acted his. And he acted with every shred of his being. With total commitment.
In fact, to talk of him ‘using his voice’ is misleading. He would use his whole body, mind and spirit. Standing, sitting, smiling, speaking – physically, as well as intellectually and emotionally – he would enter the tale he was telling, the poem he was enacting. He could, literally, cast a spell. It became impossible to detach from him when he was in action.
Yet the great thing was that, although he could work a kind of magic, and knew he could, he was a deeply modest man. He was kind and gentle, always courteous and patient. And talking with him was always a pleasure, because his mind would take you off at right angles to the direction in which you thought the conversation was going. He always had a novel and unexpected way of pursuing and developing whatever we were talking about.
In truth, if I saw him enter the room on a poetry night, my spirits would lift. Not just because he was good company, but because if he was performing, I knew the evening would be brighter, funnier, more luminous, more magical.
The thought that that magic has been taken from us, at a time when we need it more than ever, is hard to bear…
You can read a short story by Mark Montinaro here.