Last night I had the privilege of reading at the Heart Cafe in Headingly.
This well regular, well run and welcoming event usually hosts 6/7 poets.
I arrived just in time to say hello to the other readers having left Leicester earlier in the day to attend my first lecture at Sheffield Hallam. The buffeting cross winds and spray from lorries on the M1 had made for a white knuckle last leg to Leeds.
Lucky enough to be ensconced in the seat of a fairly modern saloon with Van Morrison and band for company, I remembered how the feeble wipers on my leaky MG reluctantly dragged themselves over the screen in a pitiful groaning arc. ( It was fantastic to drive through summer lanes, not so good anywhere else.)
The Heart Cafe is in a converted school room. It has stone walls, high ceilings, and fine acoustics. All this and, as the poet River Woolton pointed out, cake.
It was great to hear River, Matt Merrit, Maria Taylor, Deborah Tyler Bennett and Gareth Dursow. I’ve been a fan of River’s since I first heard her read at the Y theatre in Leicester in 2009. You can find links to her website and to Matt Merrit’s Polyolbion and Maria’s site on the list to the right of this page. They all read brilliantly. I may be biased towards the Leicestershire contingent, but I could listen to Matt, Maria and Deborah each read an entire collection.
My own reading has, I’m pleased to report, improved a lot recently. Where once I stood with shaking hands, dry mouth and racing pulse, I now feel almost as relaxed as when I am practising. This is good news for the audience, the poems, and for me.
I find that one of the best aspects of readings is meeting people afterwards. It’s always good to be told ‘ I really enjoyed your reading’. Even better if someone takes time to say they enjoyed a particular poem and why. I’m pleased to say this happened to me and to my fellow poets last night. As I left Leeds for another 100 mile drive I reflected how these conversations alone had made a few spray blurred hours behind the wheel well worth the trip.