Welcome to the summer edition of the Newsletter. Today the sun is shining. I’ll repeat that – today the sun is shining. Another indication of it being the season of the year is that Test Match Special ( TMS ) is back on the radio ( R5 Live Extra or Radio 4 long wave ). You don’t have to like cricket to love TMS because so much of the broadcasts are about familiar, easy conversations between the commentators and summarisers. It’s like listening to favourite old friends having a chat on a lazy day. One of my favourite memories is walking along the Dorset coast as Viv Richards and Tony Cozier discussed the best place to get fish in Barbados.
What has this got to do with poetry one may ask. Well, it’s like this. Those easy conversations are a result of working hard to get to a level where it doesn’t seem hard. And this was brought to mind a few weeks ago when I went to a poetry event ( not in these parts, I hasten to add ) where a group of poets were reading their contributions to a new publication. In the course of the evening they managed to annoy me in a number of different ways which in normal circumstances would have only been mildly irritating. Thus:
1. Most of them had their poems scattered around in books or on separate pieces of paper and they seemed to think it would be amusing to the audience that they couldn’t immediately find their next offering.
2. Some of them mumbled so badly that I had no idea what they were talking about.
3. All of them used a microphone ( with all the adjusting and fiddling that that involves ) in a space where, by merely speaking a little louder than normal conversation, one could be heard.
4. There is absolutely no need for interminable pauses to take long swigs from a large glass of water when one is only on for ten minutes.
5. There is no need to expect applause after each ten second poem.
So, in normal circumstances the evening would have been mildly spoiled but the crucial difference in this case is that I had to pay £5 to get in which went to the performers and that makes it a professional engagement. I don’t care if the poets, or any performers, are not naturally very good at reading in public or that they claim to be writers first and foremost. They are being paid and that is where TMS comes in. They are good at what they do because they have worked at what they do. I heard one of the poets at the end of the evening say that they had never listened to a recording of him or herself. And I know recordings exist. I thought that was disgraceful, how on earth would they get better.
I suppose one other way would be to come along to somewhere like Preston Poets where reading to one and other over a period of time imperceptibly increases one’s confidence and abilities in reading before a group of people, paying or not.
Thanks to Vince Smith for putting the Newsletter together and printing it and to Mike Cracknell for the Puzzle Page.