Earlier this month I shared my cut-up poem. Yesterday I had the pleasure of performing it as part of my set at the SpeedPoet’s Call Back Finals. And allowing myself a moment of additional reflection, it’s a year since I first put down the first few dodgy lines of what became ‘Paper Mâché’ in the cafe area of an indoor playground post corporate Christmas party (and NaNo and 79,000 words in 28 days!).
ACCIDENTAL CALL BACK (with apologies to Andrew Phillips)
The first time you step onto a stage to perform, the last thing in your mind is winning. In fact, I’d only ever been to SpeedPoets once, to the 2013 final and had no real idea how the whole thing worked. So I was a bit gobsmacked when Simon Kindt announced back in April that I had won the Call Back slot for the month.
Since then I’ve been silently (and more recently, not so quietly) stressing about performing eight minutes of poetry. In the last few months, with my self esteem and confidence bottoming out to a new low, the prospect of writing new poetry, practicing and performing felt entirely overwhelming.
Two weeks ago, I started to catalogue in my head what I already had and hadn’t read over the course of the year. I’d been hording ‘Paper Mâché’ just in case I didn’t write anything new–which was lucky, because I hadn’t written a whole lot. There was ‘How Fossils Form When Conditions Benefically Interact’. And upon opening No Need to Reply to look at ‘Eclipsed’, the poem that closes the collection, I hit on turning the final piece ‘Closure’ into a poem. With a few simple tweaks, and then a few extra lines last week, it became ‘Body Warmth of Beginners’, a title I’ve had in my notes app for a very long time.
On the first run through, the three poems came in at 8 minutes and 11 seconds and I knew I didn’t have to look any further. Sometimes you can just be lucky.
For the last two weeks, while I battled a renewed plunge into depression, I practiced when I could–inflicting the set on unsuspecting friends (thank you Rob and Rowena) when the opportunity arose.
Although I wasn’t able to get up and perform from memory yesterday, as I had hoped I’d be able, I was actually able to perform the poems, rather than just read them. And because I knew the poems well enough, there was a chance to engage with the audience from the stage during my set. There was this lovely moment, where I zoned in on a couple sitting to the right hand side of the stage and I whispered into the microphone ‘his lips pressed to the inside of her wrist’.
Chris Lynch (who read the most exquisite and sensual poem about mangoes!) and savanu (who did not crucify himself on stage although he assumed the stance of the crucified) tied as Call Back Poet of the year. But there was so much excellent poetry – Vanessa Page’s closing line was among my favourites.
As a new poet and a beginner performer, it was an honour to stand on stage yesterday with more experience performance poets. Many thanks to Helen Stubbs and Ben Payne who came along as my pit crew. Thanks also to Sean Wright and Stacey Larner who were exposing me to poetry long before I thought I might even have a chance to writing it. And also to Andrew Phillips, who insisted before he left the country, that I stop calling myself an ‘accidental poet’ and instead embrace it.