I had my first proper gig poetry reading last night but luckily I didn’t have to go very far in the rain – just round the corner from my house to the Lewes Arms pub where, upstairs, a marvelously chaotic poetry group called Lewes Poetry meets on a monthly basis.
In November last year I managed to squeeze one of my poems into an evening crammed with superior and highly experienced poets but last night I had a full section to myself, ten minutes or so in a crowded field of experienced, so-called, performance poets.
There seems to be a divide here between performance poetry – mostly performed in pubs and mostly, so it seems, of a comedic nature with very strict traditional rhythms – and “book poems” which are, maybe sadly, more written through and maybe also, more experimental over the form and the range of its content.
I am new to this game and I enjoyed myself immensely reading the eight poems that I managed to fit in. I came in the second half of the evening after an entertaining and humourous set by well-known Gloucester performance poet, Peter Wyton whose work is masterly in the way it is worn so lightly in his deceptively conversational style.
I felt that my stuff might be way too serious for this company but it was much too late to run away and hide so I went up onto the stage unclear about how well it would go down with those pints of Harveys beer. I just went for it of course as that is all you can do with my poems about death, rebirth and love and I hope they enjoyed it. They were all very kind afterwards even if there was a sense of us and them, or rather me and them, about the evening.
Variety is the spice of life and these kinds of events need to show poetry in all its different forms so I am unapologetic if I brought some “heavy” issues to the party. I also really enjoyed performing and would be sad if formal poetry becomes less tolerated in informal settings like the Lewes Arms than those splendid poems where poetry meets stand-up comedy. There is room for it all up there in that creative space above the pub where poetry can conjure up anything for a willing audience.
This is, I hope, just the beginning of other experiments with performing my work. As much as I like working in that solitary world that is the writer’s study, there is an extra thrill to be had when you spin your words to a captive audience. So look out World, the Wolf is looking to find other interesting venues to show off in.
Thanks, by the way, to all of those friends that turned out last night in the rain – I hope you thought it was worth it.