I realised, yesterday afternoon, that I was getting a bit edgy about my reading at the Didsbury Arts Festival. Despite regularly standing up in public and regularly organising events its usually to do with other things - and not my own work. Also, because there were so many other things on last night - from competing events to parents' evenings for teacher friends - my carefully press-ganged crowd was looking rather thin! Of course, it all ended well. A small, but distinctly literary crowd (artists, writers, academics) joined me and James Davies, co-organiser of The Other Room and publisher of If P Then Q, for an hour with "Two Contemporary Poets." James used projections in his work and did a fascinating and varied performance of several distinctly different pieces. Although I've seen James read several times over the years, I realised it had been a while, and I was so glad he was able to join me. The most "conventional" piece - a long, fragmented poem called "Budgies" of which he read just a section was particularly funny, whilst his final piece, a litany of discarded poems - with the dates of their abandonment given like a reading at the Cenotaph must have put a chill in the soul of the writers in the audience.
After a short break for drinks, I read mainly from "Playing Solitaire for Money." Having gone to such efforts to make the sequence of the collection work well, I kept to this in the reading, choosing several poems from each part of the book. A couple of poems required explanation, I felt; not of what they meant but where they had come from, or why I'd written them. Towards the end I read four or five new poems, which seemed to go down reasonable well - inevitable tweaks that I'm sure I'll make, notwithstanding.
So it's over, for now at least. Feel a little psychically as well as physically tired - as someone who maybe reads a couple of times a year at the moment, each reading does seem a particular piece of work in its own right. For those who weren't able to attend, and to have a proper "launch" for the book, I'm planning something in town, probably in November. For now, I can relax a bit, and just enjoy the long weekend of artistic excess that is the Manchester Weekender, and, maybe, even get back to the real business of writing. One thing about poetry, that's probably not so much true of prose, is that the performance of the poetry, even if you're not a "performance poet", is, I think, as much part of your art practice as the written words on the page. At their best, the readings, and the close reading complement each other.
Just to finish by giving my thanks to Didsbury Arts Festival, particularly Maria Stripling and Linda Chase who did all the hard work organising the date; to Pizza Express for being such willing hosts; to James for agreeing to read with me; and to everyone who gave up their Thursday evening. It was a good night.
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