Tonight I’ll be reading one of my poems at the Troubadour in London. Now that sounds very grand, but in fact all I had to do was ask if I could: my name was put on a list, and there you go. It’s not as if anyone there wants to hear me: they’ll be there for the professionals in the second half: John Glenday, Kona Macphee, Richard Douglas Pennant, Stuart Silver and musician Huw Warren. So why don’t I just go along and enjoy all the others?
Because I’m just emerging from the sleep-deprived hole that a baby digs for you. My brain is starting to fire again. Because I’ve nearly finished my current novel and am already itching to get back to other writing forms. Because my confidence was recently boosted by being shortlisted in Live Canon’s competition. And because I’m too bloody old not to try.
What to read? We have a twenty-five line limit (very sensible so nobody hogs the whole first half with a filibustering epic). This cuts out my hilarious sestina about an S&M prostitute, as it is a perfectly formed thirty-nine liner. It is hilarious. John Glenday famously – in my former writing group at least – couldn’t read it out loud because he kept giggling. But then, with a Perrier Comedy Award-winning writer to come (Silver), I can hardly compete for laughs.
I know I should aim for the poetry-reading audience’s signature gesture, the “silent appreciative nod”. This is only provoked after a work of startling profundity. But if I could do that, I’d already be one of the pros myself.
So, that leaves the middle ground: solid enough to resonate, technically deft to assure an audience I know my craft, with perhaps a careless laugh thrown in to leaven what can be a terrifically intense* experience. No pressure then.
If they like it, I might post it here tomorrow. Wish me luck.