I very much enjoy doing poetry readings. Every time, though, I have to ask myself just how miserable I should be. Or cheery.
I write serious poetry but also have a considerable selection of what might be described as light verse (How Catherine the Great Relaxed, On the Painting of the Steel Beam at the Garage Ceiling, Chet Baker’s Dentures, etc.). One friend insisted I should be more earnest and thought-provoking; on the other hand, poet and publisher Hamish Whyte said to me, ‘People love to be entertained.’
So I try to strike a balance.
Among the places I’ve read (and have attempted to strike a balance) are the StAnza Festival, The Scottish Parliament, The Poetry Library (London), The Scottish Poetry Library, The Royal Museum (Edinburgh) and various venues throughout Scotland, from Aberdeen to Stranraer, and Helensburgh to North Berwick. The Stranraer event was particularly memorable. Because of a mix-up over rooms, we ended up underneath the swimming-pool, balancing on tiny chairs designed for toddlers. Every twenty minutes an amplified voice would interrupt proceedings to announce it was time for swimmers with the red, green or blue armbands to leave the pool. Being earnest or thought-provoking was difficult. Despite this, however, I am happy to travel anywhere in the UK to read.
The StAnza programme described me as ‘the Edinburgh poet, wit and raconteur, an established presence for the past 25 years… a positive feast of stories, jokes, anecdotes and poems’. Who am I to disagree?