Archive | March, 2010

How embarrassing

28 Mar

A while ago a site about dyslexia asked me to write a piece for their blog called an “inspiration story”.  I am dyslexic, and the idea of these inspiration stories is that younger dyslexic people would be encouraged in pursuing their dreams.

The blog post was published this weekend.  I have to say though, that I am horribly embarrassed by it.  Not my own writing, but the introduction that the lovely Goga, who is in charge of the blog has given me.  Words such as exceptional and accomplished have been bandied about.  Words that I would never use to describe myself.

For me my dyslexia, although very challenging, is not really too big a deal.  Like all dyslexics I was born that way, and to me I feel there is nothing brave about something you have had no choice over.  It is people who make difficult choices who are the really exceptional ones.  I have just got on with what I’ve been given.

Anyway, you might want to read it.

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Performing, and other news

23 Mar

This Friday, as part of the This Collection showcase I shall be performing at McEwan Hall, Edinburgh, with other This Collection poets.  I am really looking forward to performing in one of the most amazing buildings in Edinburgh, and excited to see what many of the film makers have started to produce to accompany mine, and other poems in the series.

Doors open at 6.30pm and poets will start performing at seven.  What will be really interesting about this performance is that instead of one stage and a static audience, there will be four different stages with four sets of poets on.  This means that the audience as well as wandering from film to film, can also wander from poet to poet, staying for a whole set, or picking up and wandering off as they wish.

This is a very innovative way to perform, placing poets in a “viewing” position, much like a painting in a gallery where the audience is in control, rather than in a “reading” position more like actors on a stage, where the audience is essentially passive.  I will be interested to see how this works, and what the reaction is to it.

But when are you on Mairi, I hear you cry.  I should, all being well, be on at 8pm on the Right Gallery Station on the First Floor.  However I would also urge you to check out the other poets, there are some there who I am looking forward to hearing again, and others I am excited to hear for the first time.  I just have to work out how I get around to hearing everyone.

On the other new front I was surprised this morning to find my blog listed in the Top 100 Poetry Blogs at the Accredited Online Colleges Blog I must say that I have never heard of the Accredited Online Colleges before, and I have no idea how they found my blog, but I suppose that is the wonder of the internet.  I am looking forward to gradually getting through the list, as well as checking out all the links to online resources you were kind enough to send.

And lastly, I finally succumbed and joined twitter.  I can be found @lumpinthethroat, and I am looking for interesting poets, people or anything else to follow, so please keep your suggestions flowing.

Not going out

19 Mar

Due to the recent change in family circumstances I won’t be able to get out to poetry readings and events as I used to.  Even before this I used to feel that because of childcare restrictions I was never really able to attend as much as I would wish.  However I have no wish to lose touch with what is happening in the poetry community.  And so I turn to the internet for my salvation.

I have long held that that internet is my invention of the millennium.  I literally could not do the job I have as a researcher without it.  Yes it does have it’s draw backs, but particular in a country like Scotland where creative communities can be spread across vast distances, and populations live in what are termed remote and rural   areas, having an internet engage community means that there is a level of connection that would not be possible otherwise.  It’s just a pity that in some of the remote and rural areas broadband is not what it should be.

I have made two internet finds in the past week which I expect to be fully utilising when I am inevitably home bound.  This first is the Scottish Poetry Library Podcast.  I have not really ventured into the world of the podcast before, mainly for the reason that as I get older I become more and more like my mother.  Becoming more like my mother includes assuming that every new technology is “difficult” and “for young people”.  For this illogical reason I have always shunned podcasts.  I have been amazed to find that all they are tiny little radio like programs, which generally last about half an hour.  Fitting perfectly into the time it takes to have a nice pot of tea and a biscuit or a bath.  For a long time radio has been my preferred medium, I feel that nothing can match the intimacy of the human voice, especially when lying in the dark, in your bed at night.  Therefore special poetry related podcasts are just perfect.

My second discovery, which I expect to be very old hat for most of my readers has been the Poetry Archive.  Whatever your personal opinion is of Andrew Motion I think the poetry archive is a legacy to be proud of.  I have now spent a couple of evenings clicking round the archive and have discovered new poets and poems which I feel I would not have found otherwise.  There are some gaps in the archive, but it is a work in progress and I hope over time to see some of the poets I know, and works that I love included.

I would also like to share with readers this lovely reading of a Sheila K Cameron poem Two inches tall by Tom Conti – thanks the the SPL podcast for sharing this.  I think it may almost be perfect.

Are there any other poetry podcasts or sites I should be checking out?  Please share them with me.

Seven adventures in Performance Poetry

11 Mar

This week for A-LiTT, veteran performance poet Kevin Cadwallender writes about some of the strangest and funniest experiences he’s come across in his carear.

1. The funniest thing for me happened at the esteemed ‘Hen & Chicks’ venue in Abergavenny, South Wales. I was reading there with Alistair Robinson and Aidan Halpin. During my set a poet from that community put his hat down on the table. I read a couple of poems it was all going very well. However the poet had put his hat down on a lit tea light candle and hadn’t noticed. I have forgotten the poem I was doing when the hat burst into flames, but burst into flames it did with general mayhem and pints being chucked on it to put it out. As you can imagine this distracted my audience a bit so I kept a running commentary on proceedings and when the fire was finally out went straight back to my set much to the joy and amusement of the assembled poets. They gave me the hat as a memento of the night and I had it for years until I moved up to Edinburgh. It was a sort of trilby, well an open topped trilby by the time I got it.

2. Way back at a gig at Thames Polytechnic as it used to be known a very rowdy crowd threw a can of lager at me which I caught and took a drink out of. This cheered up the hostility until I did a poem by a friend of mine who had decided it was too risky to do called, ‘One Fucking Thing’ which although loaded with irony went over the audiences heads and provoked three women to follow me into the toilet and protest its content. I pointed out the irony and then told them I didn’t write it. Which didn’t appease them. They demanded to know who did and so I led them back to my friend and let them protest to the author. I think he has forgiven me.

3. On a tour of Germany when I was about 21 some of the girls in the audience took a shine to me and queued up to get autographs, one of them had decided I should sign her breast which I declined and offered to sign her less risky arm. She asked me to put my phone number down too. I did write a phone number but this was the poet Bill Levitas’ number. Bill sadly passed away last year but I know he would have coped better with phonecalls from ‘fans’ better than me. The same girl asked to meet me later and pointed to her badge which said simply ‘F#*k me’. I declined although another poet did take up the offer. I best not say who it was.

4. In Edinburgh at the ‘Poems & Pints’ night held in the West End Hotel fights would occasionally break out. One poet who shall remain Barry Graham was heckled from the floor by another poet. His reply sticks in my head, ‘If you think his heckles are sh*# you should read his poems’. Nick Toczek the Bradford based poet thought this was a healthy thing and showed a vibrant poetry scene, although his cries of ‘Oh no! the poets are fighting’ did make me laugh.

5. A similar if more scary event which was christened the Pre-St.Valentine’s Day massacre happened at the Old George in Newcastle. A packed room full of poets and some very drunk Glaswegian poets (You know who you are). This ended in one poet ending up in the police cells and another in hospital after suffering an epileptic fit. The poet Stephen Yelverton (also sadly passed away) had to, ahem.. be asked to leave.  A well known older poet who had never been to a poetry reading before was shell shocked and didn’t believe her husband would let her attend another. I was the M/C for that night, it was bedlam. Happy days.

6. Another night at the West End Hotel had me doing a poem which a woman in the audience said she had heard me do before. I said yes, I read it here last year did she not like it? She replied in the negative so I did another poem. However the audience didn’t like this and decided to have a vote as to whether I should do the poem All but that one woman raised their hands so I duly did the poem (which was of course an anti-climax after the melodrama) and she walked out.

7. Finally at Newcastle’s Green Festival the show was finally ended by the police after I did the poem ,’He do the Police in Different Voices’. The police threatened to arrest me and I said,’ on what grounds? Possession of irony? As I said, Happy days.

There are a hundred stories from the naked poetry streets but most of them are waiting for people to die before they can be told.

If you ever get a chance to read ‘The Yonkly’ (Ran by Mike Dillon and Maggie Jamieson) do so,  a workshop magazine that charted events up and down between the North East of England (and other bits) and Scotland, a lot of these stories are archived there in the form of ‘gossip columns ‘ written by various poets at the time. It remains a snapshot of the poetry scene at that time.

The theme for the year: Collaboration

7 Mar

After having a pretty awful week last week I wasn’t sure if I was really up for a spot of poetry speed-dating.  For those of you who may think I am already lining up husband number 2. do not worry, I am most certainly not.

The speed dating was a This Collection event.  This Collection is a collaboration between poets and filmmakers.  There have been 100 poems chosen for the collection, all on the theme of Edinburgh.  The speed-dating event was to set film makers and poets up together to kick-start to collaborative process.  I was really pleased to find a film maker who completely understood my poem (The Castle) without me needing to explain.  I was then also informed that there are other who also want to work on my poem – which at once was really exciting but also very suprising.  I had not expected such a great reaction.

The speed-dating, and also post event pub conversation got me thinking about collaboration.  I realised that this year almost every poetry related event I have been involved in had been collaborative.  Firstly there was the excellent Hidden Door Festival, in which almost anyone with any sort of creative bent took part – we might have missed out mimes, but as there will be another Hidden Door this year we can right that oversight.

Secondly I am soon to have a poem published in Popshot, which I will blog about more later.  Popshot is a magazine not just of poetry, but also illustration.  Every illustrator is given one poem to illustrate, and I can’t wait to see the illustration that goes along with mine.  Then thirdly I took part in the Song of Solomon project with Poetry at the GRV.  The project saw a large group of poets write a poem each in response to a line from the Song of Solomon, and perform them all on the same night.

All three of these  projects have had an energy and excitement about them, and I think this springs mainly from the fact that they are collaborative.  I feel that creative people work of each other, and together can create quite a momentum and energy, all of which comes through in the resulting work.  Having worked on my poetry on my own for what feels like a long time I find working with others very refreshing.  I hope that the current trend in collaboration carries on throughout the year.

Life imitates blog

2 Mar

Some of my readers have known for a while that my husband after several months of illness has been undergoing a lot of tests at hospital.  This week the doctors confirmed our suspicions that Ned has Hodgkins Disease, which in plain terms is cancer of the lymphatic system.  This was not a horrible shock to us, more of a relief as we had known for several weeks that this was the most likely diagnosis.  Ned has been unwell for a long time, and to be able to move forward with treatment is great.  Ironically one of the symptoms has been several large lumps in Ned’s throat. 

Over the next six month we will be having chemotherapy once a fortnight.  Obviously this will be a major upheaveal, as we will still be trying to be the best parents that we can, while working (Ned still wants too) and coping with the quite horrendous side effects of chemo.

One thing that I have really enjoyed over the last few months has been writing and researching my blog, and I in no way want to to give this up, I feel I have learned and gained a lot from the expereince and I still have more to do.  However it will be more trying for me to find the time to dedicate to it which it really needs.  This is where my readers come in.  The guest blogs are a lot easier than writing whole pieces myself, I just need to organise and edit.  So if you would like to help me out, and would like to write a guest post, please feel free to drop me a line with your ideas.  mairisharratt@yahoo.co.uk