right to read

One thing I try and do when I’m in London is get to the Poetry Unplugged open mike at the Poetry Café on a Tuesday night. It’s usually packed, often inspiring and always fun, not least because of the skill and wit of the host, Niall O’Sullivan. Each participant is allowed up to five minutes at the mike, so it’s possible to perform several short pieces or one longer one.

I was there this week and dithering about what to read as I haven’t been writing much recently – at least not finishing much in the way of poetry. Sitting and listening to the readers in the first half, I was reminded how the poems that are best for reading aloud to an audience are not always the ones you are proudest of, or that are likely to get published or win competitions.

However attentive the audience, a room full of people is seldom silent for more than a few moments. So if your poem is long and dense, full of clever twists and ambiguities, with layer upon layer of allusion and meaning, it’s likely not to work. It may be wonderful on the page when there’s time to re-read and savour it, but on a stage, it’s almost certainly going to underachieve. Something bright and short is far more appropriate.

Certainly the following, which was among the pieces I read on Tuesday, is one I’ve always thought ‘slight’ and not really worth bothering with. It did, however, work well at an open mike.

rings
...links to the past...

Ring bound

She wears rings,
and I wonder
how she can live
with those things
on her fingers.

Those links to the past
how they last!
Chains of gold
hold her fast
to that bastard.

But think of the things
you can do without rings:
with no ties
and no strings –
spread your wings!

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

2 thoughts on “right to read”

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