Am exhausted! Tuesday evening is when I teach my adult literacy course. It’s been very muggy this evening - and the whole building was hot and airless, in spite of having the windows opened. I was there because I had to be - it’s part of my job, but the students have dragged themselves out again after a hard day’s work, when they must have been tempted to relax with a cold drink.
As I often do at the end of a session, I wondered if I’d made it worth their while. We’d all been a bit more subdued than usual and preparing for exams places some limits on the kinds of activities I can plan for, but they all said they’d found it useful.
Talking about planning takes me back to what I was talking about in my last post, How the Poetry Group, Late Shift, was Created.
I’ll always be grateful to Don for giving me this opportunity, and to Susan and Rob for their encouragement. The planning meetings and rehearsals were great fun. We developed a very effective format for designing our performances. To start with, we’d agree a topic - preferably one on which we already had some suitable poems. The name of our first show was ‘Love Bites’, which gave us more or less a free hand.
The next task was to select some of our own love-related poems, humorous or serious, and often both. We then met to select or discard some of these offerings, divvying up the numbers for each of us, and identify the gaps, which we would have to fill with new-coined poems.
It was usually Rob who volunteered to sort the final choice of poems into a running order that would make a kind of conversation, with the poems talking to or bouncing off each other. We’d arrange another meeting, varying the host house, up and down from Berkshire to the Midlands, and, after agreeing to (or amending) Rob’s arrangements, we’d insert some lively ‘impromptu’ linking comments to each other, weaving a seamless show.
This formula worked so well the first time round, that we used it for all our subsequent shows. Audiences enjoyed the interplay between us, and the constant switching from one voice to another. We seemed to have hit the bulls eye of the middle ground, where ‘serious’ poets and followers thereof would feel they were being fed enough of the ‘real’ stuff for nourishment, while those for whom the word ‘poetry’ would normally act as an instant reminder that they had to be somewhere else very, very far away that very minute, came out smiling and saying, actually, that wasn’t like poetry at all - I really enjoyed it!!’
But I’m running ahead of myself – My first-ever performance since the age of six, was looming. My biggest fear was that I’d let the others down