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Thursday, 14 July 2005

That poetry reading

I mentioned recently that I was due to give a reading at our local poetry group on the first Thursday in July. There were about 60 people gathered for the evening. It was the same day as the bombings in London, so there was an air of sadness and shock hanging over the audience. Earlier in the evening I had begun to wonder whether reading poetry felt like the right thing to do in the circumstances. In the end, like many people that day, carrying on as normal felt like totally the right thing.

I read 8 poems, including a number of poems included on this site recently. They were all taken from the "28 poems in 28 days" cycle which I wrote earlier this evening. I find that reading poetry to an audience changes my relationship to the poem. I hear it differently. In this reading I heard some lines as really strong, which I had not noticed before. I heard rhythms which worked, and some that didn't. Overall I was really pleased with the material - I was taken by its intensity. And I felt that I had rediscovered some of the playful side of using language again.

What did the audience make of the reading? It is always difficult to tell at a poetry reading. Unlike a live music concert, it does not conclude with booing or frantic cheering. Poetry readings are an altogether more polite affair - at least where I come from they are.

I felt an empathy from the audience. As I looked around whilst reading there was an attentiveness which is always helpful. And there was a good level of applause at the end too. The highlight for me was after the event, when one of the organisers came up to me and said "that was fascinating. Thank you."

The rest of the evening was excellent too - there was live music from a duo playing accordion and bagpipes, another poet reading, a poem of the month, and a talk about the poetry of Edward Thomas.

One good outcome from the evening was a resolve on my part to travel further afield and do poetry readings. Further reports here as they happen.

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