Pighog Press has hosted a poetry night at the Redroaster cafe in Brighton for many years. I’ve attended quite a few times and it’s always an eclectic mix of the familiar, the unusual and the colourful (especially in the famous open mic slots).
The events are organised and hosted by Michaela Ridgway, herself a talented poet and the sort of person you want in a poetry workshop – always rigorous but fair in her criticism. Michaela is also an artist as you can see from her Tumblog. Although Pighog was bought out last year by US publisher Red Hen, the poetry nights continue, and I was delighted when Michaela invited me to read there. I shared the bill with Andreea Stan, a Romanian poet & animator who I duly researched online and found some of her performances. Take a look at this one – a poem called ‘Seven Miles’ which Andreea also performed on Thursday.
We had a good audience and I was so pleased to see so many Stanza friends there, and even one of my schoolfriends came to cheer me on. Thanks, Caroline! I have to say that Michaela’s intro was the best I’ve ever received, especially her talking up of both my blog and Telltale Press. Twas wonderful.
I read a pretty similar set to the one I did at Lauderdale House, although I was a bit spooked by the lighting which I wasn’t expecting to be quite so directly in one’s eyes – is that what it’s like for stage actors, I wonder? I like how it looks from the audience’s point of view, but with eye-contact a key part of my delivery I had to adjust! I made a bit of a slip up by forgetting to do my ‘thankyous’ before the final poem, which meant I had to hang about on stage at the end which rather spoilt the dramatic effect! Ah well!
It’s funny how you learn something new every time you do one of these readings. It gets more enjoyable with practice, and it’s tempting to go a little further each time. A few nerves are still important I think. As is taking new risks. There’s a fine line between confident and polished, and slightly smug and a bit ‘phoned in’. And I don’t think I would ever be seen as a ‘performance’ poet, even though I know it doesn’t have to be all rapping, rhyming and ranting. Local to me, Susan Evans and Louise Taylor come to mind as performance poets I love to see and hear – larger than life, brilliant characters in themselves, witty observers. But there are blurred lines in the ‘performance vs page’ debate, which is why I can’t bring myself to think of them as different disciplines. I’m a big admirer of the performances of poets such as John Agard, Daljit Nagra and even Roger McGough. But I wouldn’t call them performance poets, but rather ‘accomplished poets who give compelling performances’. I think that’s what I aspire to.