I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for some time about me branching out into performance poetry, but never quite got round to it… largely because I’m losing what little free time I have due to… you know… being out, performing!
I reached a point with blogging my poems where I wanted to test them in front of live audiences. There is a vibrant open mic/performance poetry scene in my home town of Nottingham, and I decided during the Nottingham Poetry Festival back in April that I would use an opportunity at a library reading to take the plunge myself.
I’m not an extrovert.
I’m not a naturally confident performer.
I’m not someone who seeks the limelight, in any shape or form.
But you have to test yourself to know yourself, right… So I tested myself. In my local library, in front of thirty or so mostly elderly people, I read a poem, “Memory”, that I had written especially for performing. It didn’t even rhyme, which is a big thing for me! The reading went well. Really well. The host, Henry Normal, complimented me (I’m a huge Henry Normal fan… this was dream territory for me…) Old ladies came up to me afterwards congratulating me on my poem, saying that they connected with it…
Well, I was hooked!
I pressganged a Babbity friend into attending an open mic with me, for some much-needed moral support… (In fairness, he had suggested, probably a year ago, that we give performing a go… but you know that thing with your kids where you have to plant the seed of an idea, then let them go away and think it’s their own?… yeah, that!)
Next, there was an opportunity to head across to Walsall for the launch of Diverse Verse 2 (reminder – submissions for DV3 are still very much sought ), and for me to meet up in person with a poet blogger – Richard Archer – whose work I’d always enjoyed. For me, it allowed me to build up my confidence on “foreign soil”, where no one could report back to Nottingham how nervous or awful I was! Well, maybe not awful, but definitely nervous. But again, it went well, and everyone was so welcoming and warm it helped set me at ease.
This Walsall reading was a little different. The open mics tend to be a two-poem affair. The Walsall reading gave five minutes per performer… for someone who writes mostly short poems, this gave me some extra opportunity. Five minutes… that’s all...
…any guesses how long I spent preparing for that 5-minute slot?
It was easily an hour… seriously!
I picked a batch of poems I thought would work well together, then practised them in my bedroom, recording myself on my cameraphone, to see how it worked, and to check it went to time.
Yeah, I have problems…
But I was nervous, and needed to go through this to have the confidence that when I got there I knew what I was doing, and could relax a little and maybe even enjoy it.
(I don’t need to do this any more, not to this extent anyway, but I do still like to be prepared…)
I joined an amazing local poetry collective, called DIY Poets. To do them justice, I’d need to write a separate post, but suffice to say it is a group who have been bitten by the same performing bug, and encourage others to join in to share their words. I’m no longer a lone wolf…
There is a monthly open mic night in Nottingham called Cross Words, run by the lovely Leanne Moden (she’s written better poems, but I – predictably – love this one! ). Now, this open mic is truly something special. Moulded around Moden’s personality, this is as warm and kind and talented a crowd as you will ever get. Everyone gets the same opportunity, with a featured headline poet to top the night off, and best of all, it takes place in a freaking cave! An honest to goodness cave, with performers standing beside the well… Well, I’m in love. This is the open mic of choice for me. There are others that I have yet to check out in Nottingham – and I will do in good time – but unless any of those are also set inside a freaking cave, then I know which will remain my favourite!
After attending a couple of these, getting a feel for things, and enjoying some amazing poetry and performances, I realised that I wanted to truly test myself. All of these crowds will give any poet a warm welcome, and a congratulatory round of applause… I could play it safe, and read some emotional, or descriptive, or romantic, poetry, and be guaranteed the same reaction.
Clap clap clap, thanks for coming. This isn’t to diminish anyone who performs, not at all, but the nature and quality of the audience ensures a polite reaction…
But I didn’t want a polite reaction.
I wanted to make them laugh.
to be continued… tune in next time for actual footage of me performing!