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.

Michael Stewart


About headspam

I'm a writer from Salford, now based in Bradford. I've written for theatre, radio and TV. And the following books: King Crow (novel: Bluemoose Books); Couples (poetry: Valley Press); Cafe Assassin (novel: Bluemoose Books); Mr Jolly (short stories: Valley Press) Author page:
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. My sentiments exactly. I was reflecting recently that there is not much full-rhymed poetry in ‘A Complicated Way Of Being Ignored’, and then I remembered "One Man’s Meat" by Jim Greenhalf, which is as rhymed as you can get. The reason why Jim’s poem is successful and the material from last night wasn’t is that Jim’s poem is a very carefully crafted piece about mature themes.I get what Michael says based on vastly greater experience than I have of this kind of event but I would also suggest that it doesn’t have to be like this – certainly not to the same degree. The read-round at the New Beehive Inn was noticeably better than the one Michael refers to, and that at Otley Poets was good, with one or two flashes of brilliance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s