so last tuesday evening i did my first official poetry reading. it was part of the poetry ireland introductions series 2010. i didn't trip up on my way to the podium so i would say overall it was a success. i read 10 poems and came in under my assigned fifteen minutes (of fame). i read with andrew jamison, simon leyland and connie roberts with all of us being introduced by the director of poetry ireland joe woods.
myself and jamison enjoyed a little pre-game glass or 3 to calm the nerves. on the way into town via taxi we chatted at a higher decible than normal about reading and poems to such an extent that the taxi man chimed into the conversation. he wanted to know where we were going. when we told him that not only were we going to a poetry reading but we were going to our own poetry reading, his response was ....
'poetry.....thats kinda goofy isn't it?'
what can one say in the face of such eloquence.
'goofy.....yeah i suppose it is.'
'the stoney grey soil' in a quivering voice was his next gem.
He went on to tell us how he hated poetry in school. how the teachers had beaten it all into them. at that point i thought it was important to reassure him that i had also disliked it in school. i saw its possibilites but they were roughly snatched away with a very strict dictation of what everything meant. and there in lies the root of the problem with poetry - school ruins it. once scarred one rarely tries again, and its such a pity because when its good its the most amazing, moving, inspiring and exciting way to experience words.
i think most people who write poetry are fully aware of the lack of interest out there. for the most part we keep it as a dirty little secret. if you do share you usually get the 'oh right' blank look into middle distance response. possibly followed by 'do you have a book?' or the aformentioned 'jaysus, i hate poetry, when i was in school ..... '. its hard to fly in the face of about 10 years institutionalised hatred and equally hard to explain that no i dont have a book but i have been published in a little magazine that you've never heard of and are unlikely to buy. ahh the joys.
and all of that is why the introduction series and my course and any workshop i've ever done; you realise i'm not alone in the goofy world of writing poetry.