And so it came to pass that I stood in front of a warm encouraging audience of fellow poets of varied experience and their supporters in Bilston Library at 1.40pm today to be the first to show how hard I'd worked at all the things we had been discussing over three sessions of performance workshops. The sessions had been organised by 'Poetry on Loan' and kindly organised by Jane Seabourne with workshop leaders Brenda Read-Brown, Steve Pottinger and the wonderful Jonny Fluffypunk sharing their phenomenal experience and skills. I read Jon's two books while on holiday in Brighton and in one of those random co-incidences of life, I mentioned this to him a few weeks ago only to discover he knew Brighton well having lived there for some time. Makes me wonder if Brighton has a creative gravitational pull? Pity it is now becoming impossible for the very people who make the city what it is to live there through the London spillover, but that's another rant for another time...
Which brings me back to the moment Jon finally read my intro line out..."Dawn Jutton, who comes from a world where ranting along the river is acceptable behaviour". Audience claps as promised and I feel remarkably more in control than I'd thought I would be walking into position and then reading this 'out there' poem for the first time, and to a mixed audience...
Pride (but no prejudice)
Here it comes!
A carnival of camp
freedom and golden muscled skin
through smiling streets
high on expectation, rainbows and pride,
(but no prejudice)
See those banners!
A riot of colour
marching diversity, defiance
between staccato waves
of throbbing anthems.
Oppression, hatred and fears
whistled away through tears of pride,
(but no prejudice)
There they go!
A wake of dreams
littering memories, lost loves
and corporate lies
onto hate-stained streets
filled with fight and macho pride
(but no prejudice)
Drop your flag!
Silence the whistles.
Return to reality, revolving closets
and eyes wide open.
Hope yet for carefree acceptance
and playground pride(but no prejudice)
All the practice had definitely made a difference to how confident I was in the reading but I referred to my notes for security. A pause...and into 'The Treat'. This one is a little ditty I wrote years ago and I have used it before to preface a rant about fast food and litter. It went down well last time I read it out and even my eldest granddaughter has written it down and learnt it so no need to put my thumb in the right page then...oops! First mistake! For some reason the nerves got to me just at that moment of full engagement with the smiling audience and the words went out of my head. Second mistake...not noticing earlier that I had failed to write the complete poem out in my notebook! The pregnant pause felt like the full nine months, but if you missed it, here is the full poem.
She dragged me screaming into McDonalds
Where for years I'd refused to eat
She made me order a burger
stuffed into a soggy bun
And then called it a treat.
It fell apart while I was eating
The lettuce sagged back to earth
And when the coleslaw
fell into my lap she could
barely hide her mirth.
I returned to the security of the typed pages stuck in my notebook to finish my turn with a recent minor re-edit of 'River Rage' and sure enough my minimum confidence returned to end on a positive note.
you had to share the rest with me?
Did you post about pizzas, Maccy ds, Kentucky cs
then twitter about your litter
-and how I soaked it up
Were you half cut when your trolley landed,
stranded, like an upturned animal
fresh frozen in Asda green algae,
or were you re-uniting crisscrossed lovers
-across a concrete divide
Could you not meet those sad orange eyes,
beacons of hope, stretched white necks
searching for sight of light in those who walk past,
run past, cycle past, ignoring their past,
-timing their future not yours
It’s game over too for the floating balls
you kicked out to score own goals,
swollen with inflated pride, to fall
in a defensive wall of reed, passed from side to side
-until full time scores a full tide.
I was followed over the next hour by an inspirational set of poets with themes ranging from the difficulty of cycling to lovely descriptive anecdotes of interactions with questionable neighbours and haikus with puns! A welcome soft end to the event over tea and chocolate biscuits gave everyone the opportunity to share our experience and me the chance to spend more time getting to know the sustainable nihilist.
Well done everyone and here's to a future of performing with more confidence...or maybe deciding that writing for the page is safer!