Saturday, 26 October 2013

A bit of fun, a poem and some astonishment

What do you do after a long week of setting up rooms, moving furniture, cajoling people to come along to meet an author, fretting in case no-one does come (sometimes they almost didn't), or your author doesn't turn up, or, god forbid, too many people turn up?
Obviously, you go to a poetry where you are in the audience, able to relax and enjoy it, because all the fretting and furniture moving has been done by someone else this time.
That's not quite true. I dragged my husband along, assuring him it would be fun because John Hegley is a nationally renowned poet. He's been on telly and everything. But the Other Half doesn't really do culture. He does sport. So there was an small element of fret. He hasn't really ever recovered from the last bit of culture I dragged him to at Washington Arts Centre

But, to John Hegley. Excellent. Funny. A natural showman. Not slick exactly, words sometimes got tangled and "photographed feet" came out as "potatoed feet"...but as he said, he covered that well. We barely noticed it (no really, it was all part of the act, wasn't it?).
The audience were cajoled (not by me this time) to participate, with singing, and French translation and guillemot arm actions.
And, during the interval with a poetry competition. Just a bit of fun with a copy of the book as the prize, and using something from the evening as a maybe potatoes, or dogs, or feet, but also maybe linked to the place.
The room was pretty much full of local poets and writers. There were at least five at the table front of stage.
So for a bit of fun there'd be no shame in joining in and at least being able to say I'd entered into the spirit of the thing?
And as my group at the library know, I only ever manage three lines so a haiku it would have to be.  I shrank from scribing my paltry 18 (I couldn't quite get it to 17) syllables in the corner of the A4 sheets available. I wrote my 3 lines carefully, legibly in my bestest writing on a leaf from the very small notepad in my bag. Two inches by three. A white rectangle holding my tentative words.
I added it to the growing pile on the table. Laughingly admitting to having added the icon of a pair of specs in the top corner in the event of a tie break being needed. Not a chance in hell it would be needed but I liked to show solidarity with Mr Hegley as a fellow specs wearer.
And so it was done. And I felt slightly foolish and not a little unworthy to be placing my words among those of such talented people. I sat back, drank my drink and enjoyed the start of the second half. A couple of the poems were read out; dogs and potatoes featured. The rest were despatched with the judges (two guest poets Silvia Forest and Rowan McCabe, and Eileen, of who's precise role I am uncertain  other than as an impromptu translator of french potato poetry and purveyor of limerick competitions) to be judged and short-listed.
John assured us that even though not all would make it to the short-list or be read out that night, he would take them all and read them after the show. And if they did not make the short-list it was not because they were no good, it was simply that they were not good enough.
When the judges were called back, the pile of short-listed poems was handed to John. Several sheets of A4 and a small white rectangle - about 2 inches by 3.
I swear my heart stopped. Had these three people deemed my three lines good enough?
Then my natural cynicism kicked in and I thought "No way! That's not my piece of paper". Someone else had obviously used their own notepad too...
The three short-listed poems were read out. I heard two of them. I heard the funny dog poem. I heard the laughter. And then Rowan stepped forward and read:

Penshaw Monument
stands guard above the pitheads.
No miners end their shifts.

And I heard an intake of breath, and an "ah!" and an "oh!" and someone said something but I didn't really hear what because the blood was pounding in my ears and my heart was thumping in my chest and I was not actually breathing. And my husband was laughing at the expression on my face.

Three lines apparently can make an impression, even in a room full of proper poets.  They (I) created a "powerful image".
So much so that I now have a signed copy of New and Selected Potatoes by John Hegley that says to me that my poem was good enough. 

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