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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Poetry Please

It's a hot Sunday afternoon and I'm heading for Wanstead Quaker Meeting House. At 2 pm a group of selected poets are to read to a discerning audience. I did this same gig last year. It's part of the Leytonstone Art Trail and on two Sundays in July there's poetry here.

I'm always impressed by Quakers.My uncle who died 5 years ago was one. His funeral was at the local CofE church in Egremont and afterwards they held a "silence" for him at the local Meeting House he attended. It was a very disturbing experience. No one spoke for ages and then one or two rose and said a few words about him and sat down  and it was silent again.

At Wanstead, it wasn't silent. There was an art exhibition: I liked the series of black and white photographs of New Zealand - a place I want to visit - the dramatic seascapes and fiords were magical. Not expensive at £25 each but I wasn't buying.

A fellow poet from the Forest Poets https://twitter.com/ForestPoets was there too and we walked amongst the tombstones - very austere, nothing celebrating earthly wealth or achievement ( in death we're equal) and headed over to a gazebo which sheltered three woodcarvers practising their craft. They were members of the British Woodcarvers Association (Essex Region)  and very good they were too.

At 2 pm it was poetry reading time. There were, I think, 8 of us under a large sunshade and for an hour and a half we read our poems. Some were short, others quite long. Some funny, others obscure. The occasional rhyme but generally blank verse.

I spent some time beforehand thinking about what I should read. I find it hard choosing. Some I think are good - I've read them before: others are quite new not road tested yet: they need an airing but will they be appreciated. There was one tricky number - on Death - a great subject to be poetical about. I'd read it at a recent Forest Poets meeting and its reception was mixed. The criticism that struck home was that it started brightly ( Death can do that) but lost its way - some of the images were hackneyed but it was a poem which showed great promise - denied.

I have worked on it for an age. On the tube, down at the allotment, in bed, at the computer but somehow it just wouldn't come together. Until last week - I thought. I rewrote more than a third of it - making it more active, more dramatic, more focused - I thought. I thought it was now good enough to read at the poetry session at the Quaker Meeting House in Wanstead.

I started well. People were attentive, getting involved with my imagery. There were two Death poems one I knew was good, the other was the rewrite. They were separated by a light hearted piece about a Demon in our garden. So far so good until my second Death poem. The beginning was fine and as I heard myself reading it my confidence fled. If anything it was worse than the original and by the end I was in despair. I had three short poems to finish off my readings. I just wanted it to end and so I rushed them and didn't do them justice. A ripple of polite applause but I felt it had not gone down well.

At the end of the poetry session no one came up and said "I liked your work" I was deflated. Worse of all I went back to the woodcarvers. There was a delightful snail which I thought my wife would just love. It wasn't for sale. None of the work was for sale - they did it for the enjoyment it gave them!

I'm reading again next Tuesday. I have no idea what to chose.

P.S. please enter our poetry competition details are here:

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