Or this one.
You arrive at the venue early but there is no one there to greet you. You pace around for a bit, checking your mobile phone. You find a quiet corner and sit fiddling with your books. You think you might risk a visit to the bathroom. Still no one comes. You go on like this, pacing, checking and fiddling for three hours before you decide no one is going to come and hear you read your poems, not even the organiser.
Or this. You arrive at the venue late. The reading has already started. The organiser (one of the nicest people in the world) says it couldn’t matter less and not to worry. But you are on next and the poet before you is coming in to land. As you reach the microphone you realise your entire body is bathed in sweat. Your nose is dripping with it. ‘For my first poem…’ you hear yourself say. But when you turn to the page where your poem is supposed to be you discover it is blank. Without missing a beat you turn to the next poem on your set list. But this page is blank too. Sweat is now spurting from underneath your arms, lightly sprinkling the front row of the audience. You turn to your other book, the one you had not planned to read from at all. The pages of this book are also blank. There is a cough.
Or this. The venue is packed, ‘the best audience figures ever,’ the organiser whispers to you as you pass each other on the stage. You open your briefcase to take out your books but you find it is empty.
Or this. You arrive at the venue on time. Friends are there. There are cries of ‘How long is it?’ and ‘Don’t you look well!’ There are kisses. But as you begin to read the words on the page start to multiply, re-drafting the poem in reverse, adding impossible verbiage. Your book turns into a cross between a teleprinter and a scroll, the words pouring down the page in a torrent. As long as they keep appearing you know you will keep reading them. Your oldest poetry friends are in the front row. They exchange grimaces. One of them catches your eye and shakes her head. But the words keep coming.
love this. Do you think that the life of actors is haunted like this? My only criticism – shouldn’t it be ‘Livin’ the Dream’?
Is that a song?
Yes yes yes — more please — have done all these in my head Like ‘grimace’ X Jedinak
There was more, yesterday. The being introduced at a party as a poet thing.
We have all been there.
I’ve never done a reading, but I’ve performed music all my life. Being a pianist, I’m often expected to perform from memory, and I’m still gripped at times by the fear that when I go to read my mental “page,” it will indeed be blank. Perhaps I began turning more and more to writing because memory plays much less of a role. That’s not to say that sharing one’s written work is any less nerve-wracking. At least when I was performing other people’s music, no one could criticize the choice of notes!
Thank you so much for your kind comment. I think these fears must cut across all art forms. I know actors who say the same. With good wishes to you and your work, Anthony
Oh I could feel the pain, familiar to anyone who has ever done a public reading, a school or library visit. I like them but even better when they are over. Your descriptions bring visceral reactions. Excellent. Best to you for your next reading.