Saturday, October 10, 2015

"Write With You"

The detective arrives at the crime scene.  There are yards and yards of police tape strewn between the surrounding trees and a small crowd of the curious gathers - late night runners, the river-side dog walkers, the arm-in-arm lovers and the last spill of theatre goers.  It’s still early enough to be the evening side of midnight.

“What do we have, Stenson?”

“Well, the victim is definitely not a poet.  We did a thorough search of her bag.  We found a small red notebook but nothing resembling poetry, rhymed or not, among the pages – not even a rhyming couplet or two.  Notes from church sermons it seems.  We checked all her pockets.  Thought we found something but it turned out to be a shopping list for a Blythswood Shoe Box appeal. Her car is the blue Mazda just over there – it’s clean.  We have combed the car inside and out for poems – the glove compartment, the boot and all the other hiding places.  There was nothing poetic anywhere! – just a collection of faded parking tickets scattered over the dashboard.”

There was, of course, no reason to be carrying anything poetic last night. I had been told quite firmly that all the open mic slots had been filled.  The flyer for “Write With You”, a fundraiser for Syrian refugees, promised a five minute slot for the bargain price of a fiver. I assumed that I could turn up with my poem, pay my fiver and win over the audience with my words.  I checked small print to discover that, yes, I should have phoned, and no, there were no empty slots left.

I thought about not going – an I’ll-show-them reaction.  I would buy a large bar of chocolate or two with the fiver and they would have less to give the Syrian refugees. Ha!

On leaving the house, I had thought that maybe the end of the performance of the open mic poets would dry up and there would be some general invitation – “Anyone else who would like to share?” I thought I had stuffed my latest poem into my pocket on the off chance. The chance never came and the poem wasn’t in my pocket anyway.  I must have left it on the open ironing board beside the front room door.  I did a thorough search of my bag – nothing poetic anywhere.  I am not someone who remember these things by heart. 

The only piece of paper, folded up neatly in my pocket, was a shopping list for a Blythswood Shoe Box appeal.  I turned it over, smoothing out the folds and taking hold of a pen, tried to reconstruct my latest poem. There were phrases that came instantly to mind but not enough to reproduce the original poem.

The absence of anything poetic really bothered me.  What if I was on some kind of reserve list?  What if I was called to the mic?  I wasn’t reserved or called.

In among all the poets were three big names – the heavy guns, all delighted to be asked to participate in the event.  Val McDermid headed the bill with Lin Anderson and Moira Forsyth underneath and in smaller print. They had longer than five minutes and read sections of their books or a short story. Both Lin and Moira were excellent. Val claimed the lion’s share of the evening with reading a section of her book and then being interviewed by the lady who organised the event. The organiser had, evidently, read all or most of Val’s books and asked questions about characters and settings and the process of writing.  For Val it happened in twenty minute slots cemented together with coffee breaks and walks.  I could do that.  It doesn’t sound too gruelling.

The venue of the evening was the Cathedral.  Even having a healthy amount of padding around my rear end, two hours on a pew was beyond me.  I can see why they usually stick to an hour’s service on a Sunday.  Had I been a toddler squirming around in my seat I would have been quietly smacked.

What came to mind was something from earlier on in the week.  I am learning how to creatively communicate Bible truths every other Wednesday. The speaker had talked about getting the attention of your hearer.  A listener ought not to have to write notes form a sermon.  The delivery should be such that they remember what was said. They were reeled in by polished storytelling skills.  Was it the hard pew or their lack of storytelling skills that had me fidgeting? A few thousand sales, if not millions, of their books point a finger firmly at the pew.

Of course, it was a Friday night and I’m never good for anything on a Friday night.  Post-traumatic stress kicks in after a week of work.

Cathedrals might have all the necessary ingredients for choir performances, but with speakers and a microphone there are too many echoes to deal with.  Wearing hearing aids has its advantages.  I rarely switch to the loop setting but last night I was able to hear most things clearly, perhaps more so than most, but it did require me to keep my head at a slightly unnatural angle – upright on a Friday night is not natural!

As I pulled up outside the house at the end of the evening my eye was drawn to a folded up piece of paper on the ground.  It was wet and all but floating in a puddle.  It was my poem – not on the ironing board at home and not stuffed into a pocket firmly enough.

Today I will address the lack of anything poetic on my person or in my car.  I will possess something, somewhere that identifies me as a poet!

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