Hello, and welcome to my blog.
Last night I was fortunate enough to go once again the Earthouse – a re-creation of an Iron-age roundhouse, built based on floor plans of an actual Iron-age round house found at an archaeological site. The Earthhouse is – apparently – England’s only purpose-built structure for the telling of stories. And it was for that reason, that I and my fiancée were there – to hear the last in this year’s season of “Stories for Grown Ups”.
The story we listened to, was ‘Frankenstein’, which was originally written by Mary Shelley, two hundred years ago – when she was just eighteen years old. Last night, as at every time these stories are told, the story tellers are from a company called “The Crick-Crack Club”, a charitable company who have been telling stories in places around the country since 1987. They have told over two thousand stories in these thirty years, and if the size of the audiences they play too have been consistent with the three hundred and fifty people who listened last night, that means that around seven hundred thousand people have been captivated by the stories told to them.
And captivated is exactly the right word; last night’s tale was told by one man, supported by a woman who played music to add emphasis or atmosphere. These two performers plied their craft around the centrepiece of the Earthouse, it roaring open fire. With only lanterns on the pillars of the Earthouse, as the man told Shelley’s masterpiece, the light of the fire danced across his face as he spoke. At times, the light reflected from his eyes, and at others, as he moved around he was just a silhouette. All of this, combined with the story itself had the listener transfixed.
Although I really enjoyed the story – and indeed, am now keen to read the original book – there was one moment in the tale that caused my brow to furrow. What caused the furrowing was nothing to do with the tale itself, but more a couple of words, the way they were said, and the audience reaction to them.
In the tale, the scientist was travelling to a city with his brother – the artist, who was a fan of all arts (music, theatre etc.). The scientist had arranged lodgings for his brother in the city for a month, while he (the scientist) had to go on to take care of some business. The scientist told his brother that there was lots of things he would like that he could go to entertain himself with in the city – Art galleries, concerts, theatre, Opera, and……poetry readings.
As the story-teller said the words “poetry readings”, he rolled his eyes – and the audience half laughed, half groaned in agreement. This caused my brow to furrow because it bothered me to think that poetry still has a stigma attached to it – that it is dull and boring, and doesn’t have a place in modern society. I admit that my reaction was a personal one because I write poetry, and the reaction I witnessed made me wonder if I might be wasting my time in writing my poems on this blog, if there really isn’t the interest out there.
But then I had another thought: (I know! two thoughts in quick succession!) I’m not wasting my time writing my poems, because my poems are nothing like what most people think of when they think about Poetry. Even in the circle of poets that I have I come to meet through the writing groups and the spoken word events I attend, I would say that no-one writes poetry like I do. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who write funny poems – but they more subtly funny than mine. I go for more blatant comedy.
I think poetry is seen as stuffy and difficult to connect with, which is why people ‘switch off’ when poetry is mentioned. Some of the people who write poetry and perform at the spoken word event I go to are so skilful in the use of words and the imagery they create, but I find it hard to connect with their poem. I choose to write about life, and real events, and the style in which I write is the style of poetry that I myself would like to read. I share my poetry on my blog, because A) I like to make people smile, and I think (some) people do like what I write, and B) I would like to develop my identity as a poet and hopefully have work published – in magazines first of all, and then one day a book of my poems.
I fully understand how traditional poetry could be seen as not relevant, but there is a beauty, and enjoyment in all poetry if you just give it a try. The responses I have received from people who have asked me to write poems for relatives of theirs has told me that people can get great enjoyment out of it. I have enjoyed listening to my fellow poets read their work at the spoken word events.
That being said, I appreciate that Poetry is not for everyone.
But it is also not the abomination that many assume it is.