Being talked at

What a strange week! After a workshop on Monday when nobody turned up at all (possibly a mix up over dates, or bad publicity – who knows?), my afternoon session with a tiny follow-on group went really well., and I managed a lot of prep.

On Tuesday I answered emails, and more emails, and did some stuff for my young people’s groups, and packed and sent some stuff I had sold on eBay, and did some more prep and some Poetry on Loan work – all in silence. I can’t have music on when I’m working because I find it impossible to treat it as a background.

On Tuesday evening we went to see Philomena which was a great example of how to present a very emotional subject without syrup or schmaltz.

On Wednesday morning I was running a workshop in Dudley, getting people who live in Dudley to write poems about it – although before doing a bit of research, I knew nothing about Dudley at all. They were lovely people and produced some really good writing; we discussed, we engaged, I taught, they presented their work. It all seemed very natural. In the afternoon I worked with my GP surgery group, and it was much the same – although as it was our last session, they presented me with a card decorated all over with pictures of Andre Rieu; someone I can’t stand; they are the most mischievous group I have ever worked with, far more so than any group of kids. We have to keep the door of our room closed so that we don’t disturb anyone with our laughter.

In the evening I did writeups and practised for the Friday gig, and wrote a big job application.

On Thursday I finished preparing a book of pieces by the adult literacy group from Hereford, at last, and had a good session at the hospital, and in the evening ran the book group at the prison – excellent discussion, with well-argued points of view. We all agreed, though, that Paulo Coelho’s The alchemist was a load of rubbish.

Friday was a bit different. I had to get bits and pieces ready for the weekend, and I went to the gym. I have from Groupon ten day passes for a gym nearby, and even if all I do is go and swim there, it’s much cheaper than at the local pool. I swam 30 lengths (ok, it’s not a big pool) before my foot started hurting; this was a delight, and made me feel really good. And I came home and found I hadn’t been shortlisted for the job I applied for. I wasn’t too bothered about this, really; it would have meant a lot of travel, but still…

The Son was home briefly, which is always lovely. The visit, I mean, not the brevity of it.

In the evening I was one of 9 (or possibly 10) poets in an evening of medically-themed poetry. It was a lovely venue, but freezing cold, and I was on last. You could hear the ice in my veins cracking as I stood to go onto the stage. Very interesting to hear such different poets, but it wasn’t exactly a cheery evening – not surprising, I guess, given the theme. The thing is that people who are really, really ill are often amazingly cheerful – but of course it’s harder to write poems about being cheerful. And the big problem was that hardly anyone was there. The event was associated with a weekend conference – Medicine Unboxed – and if only a little bit of publicity for the poetry event had gone out with the conference publicity I think the audience would have been at least doubled.

And so, all weekend, I was at the conference. This is mainly for doctors and health care professionals who see other sides to medicine, and I’m all in favour of that. We had some really interesting presentations, and one or two that were a complete waste of time, but what struck me as strange was that we in the audience spent two days being talked at. It all felt so unnatural, and so unlike the workshops I am involved with. Even in a poetry event, the poets make some attempt to engage with the audience to help them feel involved, but there wasn’t much of this in the conference, and at one point I felt my latent ADHD (only a very mild form) itching to disrupt things. I’m much too polite to do this, of course, and anyway, the lovely Andrew Motion soothed things perfectly. Anyway, it was all a masterwork of organisation, and all credit goes to the doctors and others who get it going each year – in particular, Sam Guglani, who is a great champion of the work I do in the hospital.

And this morning I have woken up with almost no voice. It’s just a very mild cold, I think. How fortunate that I have no workshops to run; nobody will be talked at by me this week.

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