Poetry and more poetry

It’s been a really poetic week. On Monday I went to see my friend Susie, with whom I worked years ago on a project involving teenage mums. She’s great – a visual artist and a really nice person. Were thinking about a joint application for some work – which I’ve just put the finishing touches to and sent off. Hooray! I mowed the grass, but even while I was doing this I was thinking about some changes I needed to make to a slam poem; I’m still changing it now – must be about the 11th redraft, I think. It’s still too long, though, so more work needs to be done…

I did some prep for my two performances, and for the Poetry on Loan meeting.

On Tuesday I practised for the performances and worked with a really funny woman at the hospital – she can cope with the cancer, she says; it’s all the other crap… I had a long phone call from The Son, and went to see HopeSprings, a feelgood movie with some great acting; I don’t usually like Meryl Streep much but she seems a lot less mannered in her recent performances, and that’s good.

On Wednesday morning it was off to Pleck, in Walsall, for an hour of funny poetry with a group of over-50s. I didn’t spout for the whole hour, but got them doing something in the middle – an hour of me would have been much more than enough. Anyway, it was great! They were a lovely audience who laughed satisfyingly in all the right places, and were up for a bit of cheekiness, too. And at the end, a woman came up to me and said, “I thought it was going to be pottery today. I was really disappointed when I found it was poetry; I said I wouldn’t like it, because I don’t like poetry at all. But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute! You’ve completely changed all my preconceptions about poetry.” As I told her, this was probably the nicest thing she could have said to me.

The Poetry on Loan meeting was in Birmingham in the afternoon, and I managed to have a quick coffee with The Daughter, who works in the city centre. The meeting went well – they are always so keen! It’s invigorating. We’ve decided firmly on what we want to put in our Arts Council funding bid. Now all I have to do is write it. Sigh.

In the evening I was tired and didn’t really feel like going out, but two of my favourite poets in one place were too much to resist, so it was off to Bristol for the Hammer & Tongue night. They had a little slam, but all the places were taken when I got there – but someone didn’t turn up, and I went on and won! Jonny Fluffypunk and Michael Parker were great, too.

Thursday was National Poetry Day, and it should have been quite quiet –  hospital writeup, prison prep, practice – but I had a phone call in the morning saying that a mosaicist couldn’t turn up to work with a group that afternoon, and could I stand in. I’m always pleased to help out, and it was nearby so I said yes. Just two ladies and a support worker, they looked horrified when they were told it was going to be poetry but they had a great time and wrote some stuff that they could be proud of – and they were proud, too.

In the evening it was off to Lichfield for the event to launch their new Poet Laureate. I gave him a bit of performance coaching, which he said was really useful. Three poets performed; the other two were quite serious and I think I was there as the light relief. But it was a great audience who could appreciate all types of poetry, and everyone went down well.

On Friday I did my usual accounting, and wrote some invoices, and did some Poetry on Loan stuff and prison prep, and slept for an hour in the afternoon – the bed just looked so horizontal, I couldn’t resist. And off to Malvern, for their fourth slam. I had a very unhappy experience in the first slam at Malvern, which I won’t go into now. This time, I was up first out of the hat – the kiss of death in a poetry slam, because of score creep. This is a common phenomenon; judges’ scores rise inexorably as the evening progresses. But I got through to the final, and won! Wow. Attila the Stockbroker was the featured act; I hadn’t seen him perform before and I enjoyed it a lot.

On Saturday I woke up early, needing to make some more changes to the same poem as on Monday (it’s called V, I think). And in the afternoon I went to my first ever rugby match – Gloucester versus Bath. It was like being in a country where you don’t know the language. I had a vague idea about what was going on but things kept happening that were clearly understood by everyone except me. At one point, though, I asked the Bath fan next to me what had happened in a scrum, and he replied, “Oh, it’s a mystery what happens in scrums,” and I felt much better. I did get quite excited, too, standing up and cheering at several points. The Bloke paid for our tickets. We won’t be going often – £37 each! How do people afford to go to matches regularly, I wonder?

I wrote a poem about the rugby match in the evening, and reworked V again.

So, a week full of poetry. But yesterday, there was none at all – we went to Portsmouth and up the SpinnakerTower. It was good weather and we could see for miles. I love high places; I think I stand up straighter. I don’t know how people can live in deep valleys – but then I don’t know how people can live without poetry, either, and they clearly do. Ah well.

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