A Tale of Two Readings
My pamphlet ‘Codes of Conduct’ has taught me something – friends can be lovely.
I’ve done a few readings in recent months, the key ones for ‘Codes of Conduct’ being at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, and a second one with two other Cinnamon Press poets at a venue that shall remain nameless. There’s no point discussing the bad gig for any length of time; for we three Cinnamon poets it felt a bit like we were intruding (despite the invitation to Cinnamon Press from the venue), it all felt rather lifeless, the organiser did seem not interested and poets from the floor (regulars, I guess) simply wanted to read their piece rather than listen to each other. The plus side was meeting and hearing Louisa Adjoa-Parker and Louise Warren from Cinnamon (wonderful poems and lovely people – find them on the Cinnamon Press website), and having a trio of good friends come and cheer me on. And here we reach the positive aspects of readings … friends.
I am not about to have a significant birthday or get married, but I have had a pamphlet published (I may not ever have another), so surely I had some excuse for shindig …
The ‘good’ reading at the Poetry Café was a full house. What made it so enjoyable was the sense of good will and humour that friends and family lent to the evening. Having the pamphlet published has been very nice, but this particular evening made me realise that what I had really gained was the affirmation of friendship. The launch had given me an excuse to use social media to contact a few old faces and to spread the word at work. On the night I had people there whom I had not seen for more than 19 years, along with numerous friends and colleagues, not all particularly interested in poetry as a rule.
I was lucky enough to have a few Herga Poetry friends who were willing to read – and they were well received, demonstrating that the folk who were there were a positive crowd and not simply there out of duty to me. It seemed that goodwill spread around the room as people who didn’t normally mix out of work or who rarely found an opportunity to meet came together on the back of the poetry.
The Poetry Café on Betterton Street is a terrific venue. Centrally located, very affordable and I found staff always wanted to help make the event work. Let’s not forget that there is also a bar.
The generosity of spirit and the feeling that people are genuinely chuffed at my own little success has been the highlight of being published for me. I’m not talking about being praised – put ego to one side. I am talking about a sense of celebration and a sense of camaraderie. We can of course use our poet persona and pretend that we write because we have to and we wouldn’t care if nobody read our work – it’s the poem that counts. But the truth is I have been hugely encouraged by the reaction of others, and I’ve learnt that poetry is far more fun when the social element is added to it.
People left the Poetry Café wearing their Henderson badges. (Henderson is a character in the first part of the pamphlet, a kind of anti-hero, a number of poems revolve around him at work.) We stood in the pub with badges on lapels, and even now there are people at work who routinely display their support for Henderson. Such fellowship cannot be found alone in a garret.