I was unexpectedly impressed at a recent poetry reading. No, really, and I’m going to tell you all about it.
Earlier this month, manager James at Whitley Bay’s indie bookshop The Bound invited me along on rainy Saturday evening to hear prize-winning poet and memoirist Michael Pedersen in conversation with Paul ‘Maximo Park’ Smith.
I’m glad I went.
I love Michael’s poems but what made the night for me was his delivery. He performed his poems the way I try to. By this I mean that he was in tune with his audience. He was connected with them, spoke to and for them. As a result, the room was filled with love and laughter. We all enjoyed ourselves: poet, Paul Smith, booksellers and audience.
I bought Michael’s latest book The Cat Prince and got him to inscribe it. He also stamped with with a Cat Prince stamp. A thrill for a bibliomane like me.
Michael is shortlisted in a new category in this year’s Forward Prizes for Poetry: Best Single Poem – Performed. It’s about time that performance gets a mention in national poetry prizes. I look forward to seeing who wins. Will it be Michael, Roger Robinson, Zena Edwards or another poet performer?
Performing poetry matters. I am sick of attending readings by published poets standing behind lecterns (yawn!), faffing on with post it notes inside their various poetry pamphlets and collections. Why don’t they try learning at least one poem and performing it? Poetry audiences deserve better and poems deserve better performances.
Which leads me to last Friday’s gig in The Cycle Hub, Newcastle. I co-organised the evening and performed alongside three fantastic writer/performers: Steve Drayton, Steve Urwin and Rob Walton. Steve Urwin in full flow is a joy to behold and last Friday I made the connection between his energetic style and the flow of Michael Pedersen’s non-stop thoughtful and joyous performance at The Bound the previous week.
All I want to do is connect with audience members who’ve taken the time and paid the dosh to watch me perform. I believe the only way to connect with them by taking the time to perfect my performance. There was love and laughter in The Cycle Hub last Friday. That’s the power of performance poetry.