Monday, 11 July 2011

Bombing out: The difficult second post.

06:00:00 Posted by Shaun , , , , , , 3 comments

We’ve all been there. It has been a great idea. The most heartfelt piece you’ve ever written- and it bombs.

Tragic? Yes, for the time being but, if there is anything I have learnt from writing and regularly performing /reading aloud, it is that the audience can change. A lot. Somewhere amongst the drunks at the end of the night (which obviously, as fate would have it, is your allocated slot), great lines can go unheard. A soft spoken voice can be muffled by the clinking and if, by some miracle, it is comprehended, is that the kind of person that is going to speak up in support of your new ‘best ever poem’? No.

Yet, in following that point through with minimal disagreement, you reader, yes, I’m talking to you, have just run the risk yourself of being heckled, ignored or simply put up with by the audience... You assumed.

I’ve assumed and it isn’t nice when it all goes wrong. I’ve since started to consider just who my target audience is before getting down to writing poems. Back when I was reporting on the football, this was a given- a Scottish tabloid, not surprisingly, wanted all the juice on Mr Charlie Adam and so I wrote generally about girders, Glasgee and tough tackles amongst other things. Snippets of action and actual match facts amongst a blanket of pro-Jock hyperbole and rhetoric. Line after line of it, and they gobbled it up. The trouble I found is that, when facing the blank page, the easiest things to flow out are often the worst to read out.

With an event coming up, wit can be hard to come by and if, like I did, you are just starting out writing as a hobby, something fun can be the last thing you feel compelled to push a quill over. For a lot of people, poems aren’t the first thing to write in a moment of inspiration. They instead come at sombre times, times of importance to a person and often, with mixed feelings or in the heat of the moment. Some of the best work comes from here but also, we get these (of which I am frequently guilty):

1. Dead people- pieces from the heart, the crux of life and yet rarely all that popular at an open mic.

2. Emotions & Relationships- most notably, our old friend the sonnet. I’ve seen crowds turn faster than milk in student digs.

3. Protests- serious animal rights, contentious issues and religion. Really, I’m quite liberal. I’m bloody vegan but don’t tell me about dead bears and fur on a Friday.

In the right place, at the right time, 'proper poems' fly. I’ve had people coming up after quiet events to ask about lines (they obviously didn’t hear, did they). I’ve stood three weeks later somewhere different, read the same poem and had a room of empty faces not so much looking as facing back at me. In hindsight, visual metaphors were always going to be tough at the Blind Society but that isn’t the point.

As I’m on the first day of the theme, I’m leaving this post short of all the things I actually wanted to write about in the hope that, come Sunday, the marvellous team will have covered things like rhyme, form, meter etc but for now, I’ll just leave you with this.

We made a visit to Hodgson School on Thursday- 90 kids all high on pop and sweets and to be honest, we were fine. Interest remained strong, some even looked like they were enjoying being read to and afterwards, Lara, Vicky and myself enjoyed the rockstar treatment with teenagers queuing, yes, bloody queuing for autographs! I don’t know why I’m surprised at this though- Lar selected some of her most accessible lines, Vicky blasted in with wit and snappy haikus and I went with some tried and tested short pieces (even touching on some sentiment once they’d accepted me). All you doubters out there- we got through without a cock joke, racist slur or profanity in sight. A tough crowd it might have been- the point is, we’d simply considered it.



Ashley R Lister said...


An excellent topic for us to consider this week. You make some astute points on the problems of delivering to an audience. Personally, I think the only solution is subtitles, but I can't quite see how that would work. I'm looking forward to seeing how this week progresses on this subject.


vicky ellis said...

I think it worked at the school because we respected our audience. As you say, we didn't assume that they wouldn't understand or be interested. We presented work to them that we would be happy to present at a DGP event (minus the cock jokes). They responded to that respect by respecting us in return. We treated them as intelligent, attentive people and they rewarded us by expressing an interest in the subject.

I think it's also worth bearing in mind that some of the best writing is the stuff that divides a room. I'd rather listen to something I hated than something that steptoed around generic themes without saying anything.

Lindsay said...

Who you calling a Jock? (puffs up chest in mock outrage) Sounds like the school was a resounding success, sorry I couldn't be there but I was in Preston. Sad I missed it :(