On being a poet at Womad. An ode to Wellington boots!

The Maori log drummers kept me awake last night. I mean, they might not have been Maori log drummers, but that’s what they sounded like. Womad does strange things to you. Yesterday, as I was walking through the campsite, I thought I heard a new Tibetan wind instrument made from yak’s horns and twigs belting out some kind of rhythmic shamanic hymn to life itself. Only it turned out to be some bloke pumping up his inflatable bed.
I think I’ve gone native. This morning, I almost went to tai chi. Instead I went to a tea shack. The pelting rain hammered on the canvas roof. I was surrounded by tea lights, lanterns, rugs, shabby chic tables and chairs. The radio was playing Leonard Cohen. I pondered on what a death trap the place might be if the tea lights got too close to the Mongolian fabrics draped in each corner.
I knew nothing of Womad before I came, except they it sounded like Gonad. And how incredibly grateful I was to be asked. For the last three days I’ve spent time with some of the finest performance poets in the country. Vanessa Kisuule, Matt Harvey, Scott Tyrrell, Chris Redmond, Jonny Fluffypunk. I arrived with Lucy Lepchani and we immediately ran into difficulty trying to erect her tent. Mr Fluffypunk came over, took one look, hammered a few tent pegs, and the whole thing looked much better. That’s the spirit of camaraderie in the poetry camp.
The poetry tent is listed last in some of the Womad promotional material. And my name is listed last in the poetry tent promotional material. Every morning, when it walk into the main arena area of the festival and see the massive stages and the tents and the flags and the stalls I think to myself, ‘I am the lowest ranking performer here. And it feels great!’ There’s probably far less pressure than being the headliner.
Yesterday’s poetry headliner was MC Dizraeli. He’s someone I wanted to see for a long time since listening to him on a cd about ten years ago. And the highlight of my festival so far has to be that he performed his hour long set in front of a crowd of about three hundred people while sitting on MY camping chair. In fact, as I type this, I’m sitting in it right now. It’s a story to tell my grandchildren. If I hadn’t brought the camping chair with me, then MC Dizraeli would have had to stand.
I’ve spent every day so far in the poetry tent, watching the performers. My own sets have been well acclaimed, and I’ve been stopped by several people who have seen me perform and liked it. That’s what makes a difference to a performer, the knowledge that someone has been touched, no matter how briefly. It was sunny yesterday and we performed outside in the ‘arboretum’. They laughed in all the right places and I felt that I could have taken on the world!
It’s raining again today. I’m not going to be wearing a jacket and tie, like the last couple of days. I shouldn’t have worn cream colored trousers, that mud is just not going to come out. The Wellington boots are just about the best thing ive bought in ages. I was watching Bellowhead the other day, they were performing on the main stage, but all I could think was, ‘I’m so glad I bought these Wellington boots’. When I get back to the real world later on, I probably won’t wear them until the next festival. But right now they are everything. Mainly because my sneakers are buggered after all that rain the day before yesterday.

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