On Friday 3rd June I read aloud my poetry in public for the first time. How does a writer get himself into situations like this? As with most silly/inspired ideas, following a drink.
It all started a few months ago, when a friend and I were having some drinks in a bar, and by chance, discovered we were audience members for a Colchester wide mini-music festival. Musicians were scattered across bars in town plying their wares. It was all rather unexpected, but good fun.
While in one of the pubs I got talking to one of the Litter of Kings (although I must admit I forget which one now). He mentioned that they ran a quarterly spoken word and music night. They rarely had difficulty finding musicians wanting to play, but they were always short of writers/poets.
I write, I mentioned…
And his eyes lit up.
Fast forward to last Friday.
There’s something about standing up in front of people that I quite enjoy until I’m doing it. The idea of being the focal point for a room isn’t something that worries me before the event. When I’m on the stage, my ears get warm, my speech starts to speed up, and I have a tendency to babble. That’s when having a script comes in handy.
On Friday, I had a script – pages of my poetry that I’ve taken from the walls of this blog and the notebooks I have dotted around. Most were funny, a couple rhymed, and all were a bit random. But, quite by design, all of them were short. I didn’t want to get to the place where I was halfway through something epic, only to see that people had returned to their conversations. My plan was to keep them entertained through constant changes of subject, like scrolling through a random Reddit feed.
In front of a room of twenty or so drinkers, I got nervous but stuck to my lines. I read through the list and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Some went down well (Minimalism) and some seemed to go on for a while (Bats, which I will be chopping into in the future). What was fantastic about a room full of people was seeing that reaction and understanding where things worked and didn’t.
While I’ve read my work in front of other writer folk before, they are looking for different things from my stories or scripts. They will look at it as something to critique and improve. They will inevitably find flaws, and because of that their feedback is always of a certain ilk.
That little room in Colchester, though, was mostly full of people looking to enjoy themselves and be entertained. Testing art with that kind of audience leaves you with different reactions and feedback. Did they laugh at the section I thought they would? Did they get the ending? If not, why didn’t they know that the poem/story had finished?
It’s all things to take away and use as part of the never-ending improvement of the writing process.
There’s a t-shirt design in there somewhere…
For more information about The Litter of Kings and their events in Colchester, check out their Facebook and podcast. On the latter, my work features the episode below, and you can see a quick interview with me soon.