I’m looking forward to reading at three poetry events in October, two in Yorkshire and one at the Swindon poetry festival (details are on the ‘Readings‘ page) .
Since 2012, I’ve been lucky to read in guest spots in about thirty different venues.
I’ve never been sure how this whole ‘getting readings’ thing works for poets. Apart from pamphlet and book launches organised by publishers – I’m lucky to have had a couple of these, firstly for my pamphlet, ‘Gopagilla’ and then for the book ‘The Sun Bathers’ – it seems readings beget readings, and that meeting and chatting to people at magazine launches and competition prize-givings can help.
A couple of years ago I was invited to read with poet Janet Rogerson in Sheffield’s Blackwell bookshop. Janet, one of the organizers of Manchester’s Poets and Players, subsequently contacted me to ask if I’d like to read with Geraldine Monk and Liz Berry at the beautiful library. This was real thrill. You can see me fidgeting on the video of the event here, or use the link to check out Poets and Players extensive archives.
Other invitations have come from poetry night organizers, usually run by poets I’ve met over the years, including my Yorkshire based friends John Foggin and Keith Hutson. It is just as well that I have these supportive chums as I’m not very good at approaching poetry event organizers or groups, something that must be done some time in advance as planning invariably begins about a year before the programs happens. Approaching groups didn’t seem very dignified and I wasn’t sure of the etiquette. I used to think ‘oh look, so- and-so is reading again ‘ and wonder why I wasn’t reading too!
Poetry readings in England, outside of spoken word events at theaters, poetry festivals, tours by laureates and other well-known poets and those visiting universities, take place in pubs, cafes, church halls, libraries and bars up and down the country. There is a small but vital and vibrant scene run by and for enthusiasts.
After a recent magazine launch I found myself having a drink with a poetry event organizer and another poet friend. My mate, sensing reticence on my part, said ‘How about getting Roy to read for you?’, and the organizer responded favorably and offered me a reading. I like to think it was because she likes my poems. Failing that, perhaps my manners/ face/ dress sense appealed. Whatever the reason, I was, as always, thrilled to be invited. It seems that when it comes to poetry guest slots, as with most things, if you don’t ask you don’t get. Also, it’s not what you know but the way that you do it – or something like that.
I enjoy reading and have improved of late. Gone are the days of standing shaky-handed, dry mouthed and ultra serious before an audience, rushing through a poem, heart pounding, breath refusing to be available in the right places.
With long gaps between readings, it is easy to experience self-doubt.
The only way to deal with this is to practice my set aloud before the next reading. I know that being really well prepared will help with anxiety and make for a good experience for my listeners.
By the time I read a competition winning poem at the Wenlock poetry festival earlier this year, I had practiced it so much I could have recited the poem from memory at high speed. I’d walked across fields reciting it in various accents (mildly sonorous quasi Richard Burton Welsh being a favorite) and sung it to a variety of tunes.Thankfully I’d not met anyone on my walks who might have considered me odd. If you are practicing in public you can always pretend to be speaking into a mobile phone. It was just as well I had learnt the poem. After being introduced by the competition judge, Don Patterson and invited to the stage, I realized I’d lost my glasses and the poem before me was a blur.