Monday, 21 February 2011

The Woes of Reading Poets

will have an ancillary, like the woes of poetry-going audiences, but for now, I want to consider the poets themselves and the awkward situations they find themselves in.

How about the reading where your co-reader indulged several "camel yawns" as you read? (That is, head back, mouth wide open....)

Or the reading where a friend of a friend set it up and said this was a must-read place, and the only people who turned up were four of his friends?

Or the reading where you were told you couldn't sell books?

All these happened in the first year following the release of my first book, over 21 readings. I also had some very different experiences with amazing, appreciative organizers, but I'll get to them shortly. For now, I'd be glad to hear of other poets' less than splendid reading experiences.


  1. Yes, misery does love company. Other than the obvious ones where almost no one shows up and then they leave after their own open mic slot, the one I love to hate most was the place-that-shall-remain-nameless where they insisted on making cappuccino in their excessively noisy machine which seemed (to me at least) to coincide exactly with my reading of poems...not with the friendly banter, but with the poems themselves.

  2. Anonymous8:30 pm

    A library told us (the poets) that we weren't permitted to do any publicity for our reading. The library's contribution to publicity was to stick up a poster in the library on the day of the reading. We read to four library browsers and a Jack Russell (who mercifully was silent throughout).

    The worse was in a conference room in a football stadium. A stage had been set up with the audience arranged in a horseshoe shape to the front and sides. To stand so that all the audience could see/hear you meant standing underneath an air conditioning unit which was on. The comperes had microphones. I didn't (was told I wasn't allowed one). Because of the air conditioning I couldn't hear myself, let alone gauge how audible I was to the audience. The audience didn't respond to my reading at all so I had no idea whether that was because they didn't like me or couldn't hear me. I nearly left immediately after reading but there was a buffet and I hadn't had time to eat... Luckily I got some positive feedback at the buffet, but my heart sinks everytime I get an offer of a reading organised by a local council.

  3. I always feel embarrassed when yawning (which I tend to do quite a lot) in a gathering. Especially during watching poets I like! That is usually due to medication that I have to take to stop my nose and eyes from watering like a tap, which, if I allowed it to happen would probably be as offensive. Some other poets I have read about suffered from the same sickness.