Saying that I met Andrew Motion tonight might be over egging things a bit. But I did. On account of buying a copy of The Cinder Path and asking him to sign it.
I’ve been quietly excited about this event for a while so when Daniel found out that he had a parent’s evening that wouldn’t be finished until after the reading I prepared myself for the possibility of missing it... luckily Marian came over from Lanchester to look after the girls. (I think secretly she was looking for an excuse to see the hamsters she’d helped the girls to pick out last week. They’ve doubled in size since she saw them which is easy to believe as they are massive – relatively.) Anyway, I’m really pleased that she came to the rescue because it was an interesting event and inspiring too.
At the start of the reading Motion talked about the fact that we forget we’re a country at war but that we shouldn’t. It made me think about the fact that I’d like to write poetry that deals in some way with the world that we’re living in at the moment. And that made me think about the fact that poems written because the poet wants to highlight a cause or reflect an injustice are often shit. If you’re not careful.
There were personal poems as well as those about war – love poems for his wife and elegies for his father and Philip Larkin. All of which showed that in order for us to create poems that have meaning for other people we should take care of the particulars, the specifics. Focus in on the details and avoid generalisations, grand ideas… it’s the small things that will lead us into a poem and make sense of it in relation to ourselves. Of course he put it more eloquently than that.
This was definitely a reading. Not a performance. At the end Motion thanked us for ‘listening’ to him. And that was it; we’d gone to listen not to watch. So that left me wondering about my own approach to readings/performances. Can I split myself and my poems in two so that for readings my body language is understated (with less gesticulation) and for performances it becomes more about how I use physicality to emphasise the imagery and how I embody my poems? I don’t know. I’ll just have to suck it and see. I have a few readings coming up during March – all in very different settings so by the end of the month I should have an idea about what I want from myself… maybe.
One more thing. Michael Chaplin asked a question about process that led Motion to describe part of his routine of writing. Getting up early, really early and beginning to write in that space between being asleep and being fully awake. Being a ‘bastard’ about protecting that time and refusing to allow anyone or anything to eat into or take over. Now I know I’m never going to get up early to find that time – I live in a very small cottage and if I get up at 5.30am, the girls are probably going to hear me pottering about and at 7 and 4 years of age I don’t think they’ll quite buy into the idea of mummy being a ‘bastard’ to protect her writing time. No. I’m going to have to programme myself to switch off all electronic gubbins, forget the guff on TV and the latest newsfeed on Facebook (which I’m giving up for Lent btw) and head to my room at 9pm and write for an hour or two… or even just read… a writer is a reader too, yeah?