Last night I attended a poetry event with some of the Grist writers. There were six of us in total and we had been invited as guest readers, part of our continuing promotion of the anthology, A Complicated Way of Being Ignored. It was a great venue, well lit, well miked up, well compered by the affable Brendan, and the audience were absolutely lovely. One of the warmest audiences I’ve come across. The first half of the night was our slot, then there was a beer break (very civilised) followed by an open mic session.
I’ve been performing at and attending these sort of events since the early 80s when I was very involved with the live poetry scene in Manchester. What interests me is how little things have changed. Not everything was bad, but my overall impression was ego over talent, as is so often the case. The same rat-a-tat-tat performance-over-content amateur writers of doggerel. Deluded egotist who favour opinion and toilet humour above literature. People who know nothing about writing or poetry, don’t read poetry, don’t know the craft of writing, compose their work using tired clichés, platitudes, trite rhymes, inappropriate rhymes, wouldn’t know the show/tell balance if it punched them in the face, banal observations presented as insight, confuse eccentricity with originality, and generally piss on the very name of poetry.
I don’t know what you do about that other than lead by example. I just hope these pseudo-poets will one day learn something about writing. They are not bad people (probably), and writing bad poetry is not the worst crime in the world. I think genocide is worse, for example (marginally). But please, I implore you, if you are thinking of writing and performing your work, there is no short cut. Pity your poor audience. And remember, Satan is stoking the flames in anticipation of your arrival.