This past week I’ve done two poetry gigs – one ‘live’ on the Isle of Arran, and one online in Shrewsbury’s virtual twin – and really enjoyed them both. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, really, as I’ve always loved getting up behind a mic and sharing my work. But that’s exactly what it was: a surprise.
I’ve spent the past few days puzzling over that, trying to work out why I was so shocked to find myself doing poetry gigs and enjoying them. I mean, why wouldn’t I? And I think that it’s because in order to get through the absolute horrorshow of the last few years – global pandemic, war, climate breakdown, a government steeped in corruption, and an opposition which is nowhere near stepping up to the mark – I’ve spent a fair bit of time hunkering down and shutting the world out.
As a coping mechanism, this retreat from the world has done its job. It’s worked, and (I hope) kept a full-blown existential crisis at bay. But it has left me feeling worn a little thinner than I’m comfortable with, and has brought with it a sizeable helping of What’s the fucking point? (a question I’m still asking from time to time). In that headspace, writing poetry has sometimes been difficult enough. The idea of putting myself forward for gigs and enjoying them? Unthinkable.
And yes, you’re right. Poet-agonises-about-the-value-of-his-role is a first-world problem. And yes, with everything that’s going on (gestures at planet) it probably does deserve a tune on the world’s smallest violin. But I suspect I’m not the only person who usually thrives on meeting people, on travelling, and on having something to say when I get there – who’s finding things far from easy right now. Feel like you’re stumbling through fog and treacle? Yeah, me too.
I don’t have any answers to this conundrum. My personal preference would be for a complete re-vamping of the way we structure our societies and interact with each other, allied with a systemic revolution in our relationship with the web of ecosystems we depend on. Ideally put in place sometime this week. However, none of that seems to be on the agenda of any of the important people who reckon they know best. So I shall flick the Vs their direction, mutter some suitable obscenities, and celebrate rediscovering the joy of sharing my work with an audience. Let’s work with what we’ve got, people.
Now, anyone got any gigs?