Which Performance Poet Are You? Take this quiz! You just have to look at what happens next!

OK, the title of this post was misleading. I just thought I’d mess with ya. It’s just my blog. That’s all it is.

So it’s been a mammoth of a week full of exciting things. The highs and lows of performance poetry. On Tuesday I performed in Exeter at the Bike Shed with All Of Our Poets Are Musos. I really enjoyed the variety and mix of music and spoken word, even if I did have to look up what a ‘muso’ was. The highlight of the night for me was the wonderful Chee, who makes me laugh somewhat uncontrollably with her excellent and funny songs. She’s amazing and I think I’m developing a non-sexual crush on her. My own set was accepted with laughter and hilarity, which is kind of what I wanted. And afterwards, she leaned across to me while the next person was performing, and she whispered, ‘You had sex with an octopus’.

 

On Thursday I hosted my last ever Poetry Island. It’s been an amazing three years, but I knew that I couldn’t do it forever. The nights are fun and brilliant and euphoric, but there’s so much organisation goes in to the promoting and administrative side, and then I get incredibly nervous before hosting. I have to lie down on the floor of my flat and stare at the ceiling. I’ve never really told anyone about this nervous side of me before, but it becomes almost crippling. Ian Beech will be taking over, he’s a great chap and has an encyclopedic knowledge of performance poetry, as well as many contacts. The nights will be amazing under his control.

It was an emotional night, full of good humour. I did the dance for the last ever time. We put the poets in the cinema because there were so many people wanting to come in and watch, and it was great to listen to their reactions from the other room! I will certainly miss hosting, but I wont miss all the other things that go around being a host and promoter.

On Friday night, Tim King and I drove out to Salisbury to appear on the main stage at the Rest Festival. We got lost. Then we hit a kerb. Then we almost hit a rock. Then we got stuck in a traffic jam. Then we got stopped by the police. We finally arrived with about ten minutes to spare, to find the act before us was an amazing band, and when it was announced that the music had stopped for the night and that next up were two poets, the crowd kind of drifted away. Quite quickly. Nevertheless, we performed very well, even if we did scamper away as quick as we could! Got back to Tim’s house in Exeter at three in the morning. We had cheese on toast and red wine.

So that’s been my week. Oh yes, and I did that dreaded ice bucket challenge thing. The results were too embarrassing to broadcast, but if you want the video I can always send it. It was cold. Obviously. And I was not very manly.

 

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Post Edinburgh Musings

It’s been a week now since I returned from Edinburgh. A week of being back in the daily grind of work and things. In fact I have work for the next eleven days now, so Edinburgh, and all of those shenanigans, seems such a long way away.

But it’s been a week of developing ideas and concentrating on other poetic projects, and getting ready for the next Poetry Island, and performing in Totnes, and revelling in the freedom of performing other poems. You know. Not the ones that I did in Edinburgh, day after day.

Edinburgh was a kind of exquisite madness. It’s kind of the performance poetry equivalent of being in the army. Everything was so structured and so far removed from every day life that it was an incredible relief, almost, when we did the last show. By the end of the week the audiences were large and enthusiastic. In fact there were two wonderful highlights on the last day: one chap in the audience told us that we were the best thing he’d seen at the Fringe. And then the next day I was contacted on Twitter by someone who said that they could have watched us for hours!

It’s all a far cry from the day when we had two leave before the end, a man who kept yawning, and a Chinese lady who fell asleep at the back of the room.

So now I’m filled with ideas for next year, and a one man show that I’ve been developing. I spoke to a colleague the other day who’s possibly going to be doing some original music for it. And I have very clear ideas on the tone of the project. How exciting is that!

The weirdest thing about coming back early is the thought that a lot of my poetry friends are still there, still pumping away at it. They keep putting pictures on Facebook. So I come home from work and immediately I’m right there. I’m with them.

There’s one thing that I wont miss and that’s the camping. I’ve not been camping for 30 years. I’d quite forgotten how hard and how cold and how cramped it is. Standing up becomes such an exquisite joy. Sitting down becomes heavenly, especially in a chair. Night attacks of cramp and of being so cold that you use anything at hand to keep out the cold. I bought a hoodie on the second day. It became my most treasured item because it kept me warm. I was sleeping with the hood up. This is for my art, I kept telling myself. That, and the strange looks people gave me in the communal bathrooms the next morning while I was spiking my hair. Campers. Miserable lot.

I’ve got loads to get on with. New poems, for example. For some reason I have this annoying habit of working on several poems simultaneously. And a couple of projects which I can’t tell you about at the moment, but will become apparent very soon.

But for now, I’m fully integrated back into normal society.

Here’s a new poem for you:

Poem

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It’s official.

There’s no-one in Taunton named Jeff.

And I’ve checked.

I counted all the Jeffs in Taunton and

There were none.

I thought I found one but she

Was actually called Beth,

Not Jeff.

I checked both spellings,

Jeff with a J

And Geoff with a G

And there were neither of each.

I checked the floor tile warehouse

And every burger van

And I couldn’t find a single Jeff anywhere.

My notebook entry says

‘Number of Jeffs in Taunton, one.’

And the one is crossed out and amended to zero

Because as I say I accidentally counted Beth.

Edinburgh Fringe day five

I’m writing this on the train, heading back home now. Home to Hurricane Mavis, and things line doors, beds and walls. You know. That you don’t get with a tent.

Yesterday was our best day yet. Indeed, felt like I’d got the whole Fringe thing sorted. Leafleted all morning and generally spread word of mouth about our show and attended other shows and networked and made new friends. That’s the way to do it.

We had a full crowd for our last show including friends from other venues like Ken Do and Robert Cohen, whose shows are both incredibly good. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and the atmosphere was brilliant. An audience member later Tweeted about it. Such a shame we couldn’t stay longer!

I will miss the whole scene in Edinburgh, particular among the spoken word poetry fraternity. We got to know most of the other performers and spent time comparing notes. Jack Dean, Rob Auton, Byron Vincent, Tina Sederholm, all of them so supportive and genuine.

And this is what makes the spoken word scene so comfortable. People I’d performed with in Devon, London, Wolverhampton, Swindon and Barnstaple were all there.

What’s the major lesson from doing the fringe? Plan, certainly. But relax. Smile. Don’t panic.

Anyway, better be off now. One hour of the journey has gone. Just ten more to go and I will be home!

Edinburgh Fringe, days three and four

Well I’m starting to get into the swing of it now. The rhythm. Leaflet and smile. Leaflet and smile. Poetry death match, madam? Leaflet and smile. And then go to someone else’s venue and leaflet and smile. Poetry death match, sir? And then get to your own venue and hope they damn well turn up.

‘Yes. Sounds great. I’m busy today but I will definitely come along tomorrow’. That’s what they say. But then they hear that there’s an act at the same time involving tightrope walking badgers. How can poetry possibly compete against tightrope walking badgers?

We had our best audiences over the last two days, six at a time. Yesterday was weird, though. Two of them left before the end, and one of them fell asleep. That’s never a good sign, is it? Mind you, she looked absolutely pooped. And I know how she feels. Festival fatigue set in yesterday and I just had to go to a book shop for a bit and pretend I was elsewhere. Just for a bit.

I’ve seen some really good comedy, though. Ever since last year I’d wanted to watch John Kearns, and sure enough he was brilliant, funny, inventive, harmless and likeable, and I was very glad that I went even though everywhere I go I have to lug around a big cardboard envelope containing the shows props. You have to stow it, you see. Stow it in the corner whenever you get to someone else’s show.

But the funniest thing I’ve seen is a comedy motivational show by Ken Do. Hilarious stuff, physical, character driven comedy which made me laugh like nothing else I’d seen for months. I wanted it to go on for much longer than it did even when Ken invited me up to help him illustrate some of his confidence building measures.

Everyone should go and watch this show, it’s at Pivo at seven each day.

Been performing elsewhere, too, at an event called Jibba Jabba. The audience is generally bigger than ours. It’s a confidence thing, you see.

There’s something weird happening, too. I mean, weirder than walking round in a tshirt which has a picture of your own face on it. People keep saying, ‘I’ve seen you before, were you here last year?’ And someone asked me if I was married to Sarah Millican. I’m not. I did a Google picture search on ‘Sarah Millican’s husband’. It was scary. Try it.

One day to go, now. I feel for my fellow poets who are here for the month. Jack Dean, Rob Auton, Tina Sederholm, Dominic Berry, it must be so, so tiring and emotionally draining. On the plus side, they’re probably not staying in a tent. Forty year old and I’m camping. Never again!

Home tomorrow. I’m typing this at a picnic bench on a campsite at seven in the morning. How I long for simple comforts, like doors and a roof!

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Edinburgh Fringe, Days one and two

And so into battle every day, against thousands of other shows, leafleting in the Mile, leafleting outside our venue, leafleting outside other peoples shows and venues, and talking to people about the show and summing it up in three words (‘ Poetry death match’), and leafleting and leafleting some more, and then one person turns up on the first day.

And worse than that, she hadn’t even come to watch us. She had expected something else to be on. We invited her down into the basement of the Royal Oak to our performance space and we performed just for her. But then she said she had to leave at half past to see something else, so we stopped the show halfway through and reminded her that she needed to go. She didn’t clap much.

The second day we had a fifty percent increase in viewers, and they both stayed to the end. One if them was Tina Sederholm. The other was an Australian we met earlier.

But it’s so much more than just our show. I went to see one of my heroes, Rob Auton, he was brilliant and honest and human and everything that’s good about the human spirit was exemplified in him. We chatted afterwards, and I helped him pack up. As a fellow performer, you see, the importance of getting the venue ready for the next performer is paramount. And another poetry hero was also there, Byron Vincent.

Then I went off to see a drag artist, Mzz Kimberley. She was fantastic and belted out some classics to an audience of eight blokes. She sang to me. I could have watched all night. And when I left, I saw Eddie Izzard crossing the street. He stumbled on the cobbles in his high heels and bumped into me. Oh. These chance encounters!

A poet gave me his flyer. It must have been his last one, as he had written his set list on the back, I wanted to go and find him. It was probably important!

So it’s a cattle market here, of shows and flyers and leaflets and slow walking tourists. But I’m getting the hang of what’s required, hence this blog. Getting the word out there, you see!

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