It's been a while since The Other Room's 52nd 'inning', and though I've already said a little about the poetry, I wanted to go on about the experience as a whole. Much like Storm and Golden Sky's nights, the power of live readings was emphatically exemplified, and I'm going to tell you why it was so enjoyable. Strap yourself in, this is going to be a long gush...
There were three poets reading their work and I think the 'exoticness' rose a level with each one [representatives from St Helens, New York and 'Japameritland']. That enhanced the juxtapositions between them, giving a feeling of crescendo at the end. Those are just my airy-fairy reflections, though - the poetry itself was very vibrant and of such a high standard. The range of techniques used gave a pleasantly jarring sensation also, both conceptually and 'in res'. So, from linguistic playfulness to found poetry [with an added caveat of spacial connection] to audio-visual projections [I'm guilty of cherry-picking over-simplified examples there], the 'journey' via the poets themselves, and their poetry, was unique to the night.
I also got my book signed by the legendary Tom Jenks. I saw him read in Liverpool not so long back, and his wonderfully surreal work mostly had me in stitches [though there were other responses...]. I thought Crabtree had sold out, and was overjoyed to see it there on the bookstall. I couldn't then pass up the opportunity to ask for 'his mark'. Some of these books are rare, some of them not available
online, so just the material itself is another facet to enjoy. It's like looking at an exotic fishmongers - everything's fresh, colourful and exciting. So yeah, bookstalls [and the opportunity to ask for them to be signed] are another big part of the live reading scene.
I was also charmed by a lady who got chatting to me for whom this was the first experience of poetry reading since school. She particularly enjoyed Matsumoto's line, "I hosted the hell out of that tapas party!" [5:44 on't' video]. I hope that, even if I don't see her at another of these readings, she goes to more readings and enjoys them as much. I hope they help get her back into writing too. I had the feeling, based on her off-the-cuff wordplay and wit that she's probably a talented poet too, and I'd jump at the chance to read her work. Don't hide your light under a bushel [if you can find a bushel in this day and age...]! Of course all socialising down the pub is fun, but when it's with a specialist bunch, whose vocation is shared, then the rewards are so much richer and the new friends more intriguing - challenging, sometimes, but always affirming.
There's also the community aspect that I feel is enriching, to some degree, at least, for all, and absolutely necessary for some. For example, I'm not a terribly confident person and am often not motivated either. The writers' community, as and where you find it, is real fuel to your fire, from reading recommendations to ideas to mini-critiques and more. Maybe even opportunities to perform your work - all things that make you feel better about what you're doing. Confidence like that is absolutely priceless. And wondrous.
Speaking to writers, whether new or old in terms of your experience of them, is obviously a part of this communal energy, and I was honoured [yes, I did warn you this'd be gushy] to chat to Matsumoto at the bar. Humility and vibrancy were the striking things about her - again, good feelings abound. I got to see Richard Barrett, too, whose work on literary collaboration first got me hooked on the man. Also I shared some of a train with Tim Allen. We talked about experiences, ideas and football at some length. It was one of those moments with a great mind that I wished I'd had my voice recorder with me, because poetics pop into these conversations [as they inadvertently and inevitably do] and I think it's nice to have a record. But I'm yet to try the 'You don't mind if I record us, right here on public transport with no prior warning, do you?' line. We'll see...
The Other Room happens to be FREE, by the way. All you need to do is reserve a spot at Eventbrite. That's more money to spend on books and beer, which has always been excellent at The Castle Hotel [my kind of traditional, slightly quirky boozer]. The bottom line here, what with the warm atmosphere, the inspiration and the socialising, it's fun! I know that sounds a bit facile, but it's true! You don't have to be some stereotypical scholar and/or world's best poet. You can be a 'civilian' and still have a great time. If you are a writer, though, the benefits become that much more manifold for you.
Are you convinced, yet, of the grooviness of readings? If not, why not? Anyway, if you can't get to Liverpool or Manchester, Google what's going on in your area. Oh and if you don't have any plans next Wednesday, by the way, there's always Edge Hill's latest poetical offerings! The Other Room's next event happens to be on the 30th of April. Hope to see you there folks.
Peace, love and light.