Do you like giving readings? I love it. I’ve never written poetry just for myself, so I’m always thrilled to bits when I’m invited to read*. This autumn I’m doing a tiny ‘tour’ – to Wiltshire, Suffolk and Norwich. In each case I’ll be sharing the bill with other poets and reading to audiences new to me. Of course, I want to share poems from my latest pamphlet, Elastic Glue, in the hope that I might sell a few copies, but I also want to give an airing to new work, to see how it sounds out there.
I believe that if audience members are willing to make the effort to turn up and, in some cases, pay for the ‘pleasure’, it’s only right that I make an equal effort. This includes thinking about who I’m reading with, which poems might suit a particular occasion, carefully timing my own programme (including what I might say between poems) and assembling the poems to be read so that I’m not flicking through papers and books going, “Shall I read this one? Or perhaps this one?” (As an audience member, this drives me nuts).
This month I took part in another sort of reading – on Soho Radio – an edition of The Poetry Parlour, hosted by Anna Robinson, with fellow poet, the legendary Jeremy Reed. We read a couple of our own poems, other people’s, picked some music – Jeremy’s pick was Marc Almond and mine was Julie Andrews – and chatted. The theme was Lammas – the first harvest – though, as confirmed denizens of central London, we were very liberal in our interpretation. You can hear it here. (And spot my confident misuse of the word ‘meretricious’ – I know!). Afterwards, we talked about beauty – whether it’s still valued – crop circles, and prison education.
To illustrate Jeremy's commitment to beauty, here's an extract from his poem 30 Bedford Square, for James Lasdun. You can read the full poem in Vertigo Magazine.
‘Today I’m steadier, and feel your pull
attract like gravity in what I write,
sitting out on crumbling back steps, the sun
filmic as glycerine in September,
chasing a poem, the red wine I drink
accelerating chutzpah through my veins,
and go inside to read your new e-mail –
you’re out in pristine wilderness with bears,
summer beside a mercury poisoned lake?
you boating through clouds, ruminative, alert
to writing possibilities, and how
visceral trout respond towards nightfall
bulleting flies in the red afterglow,
while I return to brash tobacco plants,
their sweet-scented white flowers, and stay outside
trying to get the intractable right,
polish a phrase for you, as time well spent
attentive to detail, and surrender
to lazy radiance, and work with it,
the slow, amazing honey-coloured light’.
*PS: Top tip for getting invited to read – ask.
Clare Pollard's Fierce Bad Rabbits (Penguin Figtree); Structure and Surprise, ed. Michael Theune, Teachers and Writers Collaborative; The North issue 62; and Joanna Ingham's Naming Bones (Ignition Press).