Friday, 15 July 2016

Ledbury Poetry Festival Gratitude

Thanks to London-Midland trains for reminding me of all the clichés about British Rail in the 80s.  Late, dirty, loud and dishonest about how late they were likely to be.
(I remember every comedian making (hilarious) jokes about how shit trains were, and then they were privatised (the trains, not the comedians) and the fares went up by a million per cent and the government put a shit-tonne of public money into it, and the service stayed the same, or got worse, and instead of one central authority managing safety and that kind of thing, there were suddnely several competitors running different parts of it all.  And then loads of people died in train crashes.  Still, at least Ben Elton got a few gags out of it.  #littlebitofpolitics)
Thanks to S at the B&B for welcoming me; jolly nice place as well. 
Thanks to The Manager for picking me up at the B&B to go to sound check; that’s how to treat an artist, folks…
Thanks to The Organiser for all the organisation; being used to arriving at roughly the appointed time to wait two hours for a five-minute sound check in a dank, dark, smelly pub, it was a real treat to arrive and sit in the sunshine in the countryside and marvel as things happened at (or near) the time previously arranged.
Thanks to Hellens Manor for letting me wander round and have a look and have a go on the massive ropeswing/seat thing, that was nice (I don’t know if I was allowed/supposed to, but I did and no one stopped me).  There’s apparently an 11th century house in there somewhere.  It all looked lush in the sunshine, anyway. 
Thanks to LPF for the rider: sandwiches and crisps and ginger nut biscuits.  Perfect.
Thanks to these beauties for listening to me sing.  

I was wandering about practising when I spotted them.  We were all tentative, but they seemed genuinely interested.  Aren’t their eyes beautiful? 
I played Buck It List for them, and they got it, I think, although I was initially a bit disappointed not to get much of a reaction to the end of the verse – which has, on occasion, roused human audiences to spontaneous mid-song applause.  But they listened so keenly, I can only assume they were mulling it all over in their quiet way, mutely (but sensitively) considering the end of the verse in the context of the whole thing, perhaps coolly appraising the list, or considering how some items on the list stacked up against their own experience.  And they also knew which one number ten was, which no one else ever does.
They particularly liked Sleep Tight, and I felt their melancholic look was perfectly judged, like they really got that “we’re all going to die” isn’t supposed to be sad or shocking in the context of the whole song, and that the bits people laugh at are actually quite sad and that the bits people think are quite sad are actually funny (to me, at least).  The brown one, particularly, tilted his/her (I don’t know, I’m not Chris Packham or one of them lads) head in a manner that suggested a keen understanding of the mix of subtle humour, wry assessment of youthful existential angst and a self-effacing ironic swagger made me feel that someone understands me and that things might just be alright. 
Then the other one did a massive shit, and I thought “Well, everyone’s a critic.”

Thanks to Katherine Williams, who played a set of songs inspired by Sylvia Plath.  I read The Bell Jar last year, it’s a lot funnier and less sad than people seem to think it is.  Perhaps I have a high threshold for bleak art. 
Thanks to Hollie McNish for her set based on her book about parenthood called No One Told Me.  It is as funny as it is honest.  I’d’ve liked to give her set my full attention, but unfortunately it clashed with my usual pre-match ritual of pacing and practising my own words and drinking several litres of water and urinating frequently.
Thanks to Harry Baker for his poems, especially the one I walked in on (returning from the toilet) as he was instructing the audience for their part in German.  We did our best, but I’m not sure our pronunciation was that good.
Thanks to the audience.  I like poetry audiences, they really listen.  Being in the atmosphere was a bit daunting the first few times, when I was used to playing to drunk people in a dingy pub (don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got love for my drunkdingypub crew).  Now I relish it, and enjoy doing some poetry of my own, pacing it for a crowd that is receptive to spoken words.  Perhaps I should do more of this kind of thing.  Thanks for listening, y’all. 
Thanks to all the above who helped me live out one of my childhood fantasies: drinking bourbon alone in a hotel room after a gig.  It felt good. 
Thanks to S at the B&B for breakfast; home-made jam! Fruit from the garden!  This is how to live.
Thanks to my fellow guests for all the poetry chat.  I wish I could remember the names of all the interesting writers they discussed.  I tried to listen more and speak less, in line with my recent learning attempts.  (I think I did ok at this…(I hope I did ok at this, because it is really important.))
Thanks to The Manager and everyone at LPF for keeping in touch with all the details before, booking me accommodation, giving me lifts when they were needed, feeding me, doing things on time; that’s how to treat an artist, folks.
And, finally, a Thanks, with apology to PEN.  They contacted me to ask me to read the work of a poet who has been persecuted for his writing.  In the event, having prepared for this and chosen a poem by the suggested writer, I forgot to take it to the venue, and having an unreliable internet connection, couldn’t find it online.  I sincerely apologise to the poet, and to PEN for the oversight, it was pisspoor on my part.  The poet is called Ashraf Fayadh, and you can read about his case and his work online, should you be interested.  I feel especially bad for not doing it, because his work is really interesting.  This was a terrible oversight, after I had agreed to take part, so I apologise wholeheartedly to Ashraf and the organisation.  I had a short set on the night, so had intended to read a short piece of his.  I hope he, and PEN, will not mind me reproducing it here instead:
Logic by Ashraf Fayadh
The old door applauds the wind by clapping
for the dance it has performed, accompanied by the trees.
The old door doesn’t have hands
and the trees haven’t been to dancing school.
And the wind is an invisible creature,
even when it’s dancing with the trees.

1 comment:

  1. Is number 10 the one about the album with your name on are asking for forgiveness?

    It's a bit confusing (so fairplay to the horses) because a couple of the listed items include "and" and it's ambiguous whether these are separate items or multi-part items.

    I suppose I could count them all and work it out that way, but then I'd have to sacrifice something on my list.

    PS Post a comment on an unknown blog. Tick.