Going Back, Going On

In 2003 (I think) I gave my first ever poetry reading.  I’d read poems out loud to family and friends, but never at a reading or an event, although I had been to these.  On a dark walk home along Longstone Road one night, an author had recommended the Courtyard Readings at the Scottish Poetry Library.  So, armed with a notebook and a friendly smile I walked down Crichton Close and asked if I could put my name down.

I’d acted before, and was happy to stand before an audience; I believed in my poems and knew them well.  But I hadn’t figured out what I was going to read (I think I had a complete definite, a probably definite and a bit of a woolly conglomeration of possible third poems), and didn’t appreciate that being able to read my own handwriting well enough to type them wasn’t necessarily a level of legibility conducive to fluent performance.

It is always a great event, and I am fortunate enough to be one of those poets who enjoys reading their work.  There was a rich array of ages, stages and nationalities.  But the fumbling about to find the next poem was something I neither wanted to repeat nor have since. Undeterred, I sought out my next opportunity.

Aware of the lessons I’d learnt in August (know what you’re going to read and print them off), I learnt of Reading the Leaves, a monthly spoken word event in Tchai Ovna, and a plank in my poetic apprenticeship (I believe this is a lifelong thing by the way) which cannot be underestimated.  I went along to an event to check it out, emailed Nalini Paul, then organiser, with a sample of my work to see if it would be okay to read.

Next thing I knew, I was on the bill for the next event, and had 15-20 minutes to fill.  I remember at the time thinking that my reading slots would grow with time, but this seems to be a pretty much constant duration for a reading, and a very apt amount of time to listen.  So I printed off my favourite poems, stood with a stopwatch in my bedroom and read them out loud.  8 minutes.  I needed more poems.  Eventually, I’d figured out a set which filled my allotted time.  A twenty five poem set.

I found my mark, stood there and read them one after another, pausing for interjections like “This next poem’s called….”, “This is a poem called…” and made it through all of the poems I’d selected.  Some audiences deserve a round of applause.  Pretty soon I was back, and I gradually read less poems, spoke a bit more and generally relaxed.

Reading the Leaves was a great way of postponing the inevitable Friday night inebriation of my mid to late twenties.  You got free tea, and though I may have smuggled a hip flask in once or twice, or enjoyed a glass of red before I went down, 10pm was guaranteed to find me compus mentus.  Which was a rare occurrence otherwise.

The event has moved from Friday night to Tuesday night, but stayed at Tchai Ovna.  In it’s tea drinking early weekend place is the Magic Carpet Cabaret.  I read there once, when it was run by Ellen McAteer on a Tuesday night.  The heady combination of poetry, fiction and song was a real breath of fresh air. And tomorrow night, I’ll begin another weekend with artisan tea in one of the most perennially leftfield spots in Glasgow’s West End.


About damagnifyingless

I live in Glasgow, and express myself through poetry, film, photography and my blog at https://damagnifyingless.wordpress.com
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