I’ve been to several poetry readings in the last couple of weeks, including an anthology launch where I was among the readers, and one by the elderly New Zealand poet C.K. Stead.
The launch lunch for The Apple Anthology (published by Nine Arches Press) was a fairly casual event, with a number of readers, and a varied audience eager to sample the cider, sandwiches – and inevitable apples.
The other events, though, were more formal and I was disconcerted to see people in the audience tapping away at their smart phones and laptop keyboards when I thought they should be listening. (That’s why I chose the photo of the owl, an eminently educated bird, with those marvellously disapproving eyebrows I can never hope to match however much I frown on modern youth.)
Thinking about it, though, since I always attend readings armed with a notebook and pen, I wonder if I am being unreasonable. Does the scratch of pen on paper distract other listeners as much as the keyboard tapping distracted me?
Having the means to make notes helps keep me focused and I jot down occasional fragments and phrases – sometimes a line from a poem that’s read, sometimes a phrase from the introductions, sometimes a mis-hearing that catches my attention. Maybe I’ll use the notes in my own work, maybe I’ll blog about them or maybe they’ll just sit in my notebook as a reminder of the occasion.
Among the notes I made during C.K. Stead’s reading was the first stanza of his piece called Why poetry?:
To catch the cat’s
her yawn and stretch in the sun.
I wonder what the answer would have been if I’d asked his audience “why poetry readings?”.
We catch the poet’s words
with half an ear, fingers
facebook-chattering with friends.