Those of you who have read the last post will remember that I said I’d found a reading to go to this afternoon; it was at the Dan O’Connell Hotel in Carlton and happens every Saturday from 2pm.
They had an open mic section where numerous local (well known/loved by the crowd) poets performed for 5min sets. Many of these poets were excellent, almost all were reading their own work; there were a couple who were reading the works of others.
Following the open section they had what they called the ‘Feature’ which I assume meant ‘Featured Poet of the week’ or similar. The Feature this week was a poet named James Jackson. From his work and his introduction one is led to believe that he is controversial (if you were being kind, a shit-stirrer if you weren’t). He said he’d had hate mail, he’d had a woman so incensed by one of his poems that she ‘ruined the whole set’ by noisily expressing her distaste and he seemed to be on the outer of the academic circles. That may all be true but honestly I thought he was brilliant!
His use of language was outstanding, his delivery was rough but practised and unfaltering, his subject matter was topical and satirical and kept the audience entranced. The only thing it was not was easy.
One of the poems he read was called ‘Poetry is not easy’ and I must agree that all of today’s performers really demonstrated that. I found myself straining to hear even though there was a reverent hush from the other patrons and it dawned on me during the performances just how condensed poetry is.
Poetry is like 85% cacao chocolate next to prose’s milk chocolate. It’s all the goodness of language and concepts and storytelling compressed, distilled, reduced to such a pure form it’s almost too strong to eat/hear. I wanted to take each word and mull over them in my own time. I wanted to have silence around me so as to better absorb all the meaty goodness of each poet’s words. I felt like it wasn’t fair that I had to give up the lingering aftertaste of the last piece in order to listen to the next one – I missed a few of the early ones for that reason; I was busy processing the one before, or thinking about what was happening on Facebook and didn’t realise that I needed to put 100% of my energy into listening to each word as it left its creators mouth in order to catch less than half of the full content.
I don’t know what it was today that made it so effortful for me. Perhaps now that I’ve been on this journey for nearly two months I have enough space in my head to really hear the meaning in things. Perhaps now that the clamour of the daily corporate grind has faded I can start to hear the more subtle songs of life and art and poetry. It’s strange to realise how much I was missing trying to deal with all the expectations of a ‘real’ job, to realise just how much I don’t know about the world I’m trying to enter.
My task for the next couple of days then will be to try to find some of James Jackson’s work and read it, chew on it, think about it, reread it, and try to suck all the goodness I can out of it. I also have a number of poetry books, some I bought last week and some that were gifts from friends that I’ve never really attempted, that I am going to try to tackle. I think they are the sort of thing that is best taken in small, bite-sized pieces so they may take me some time.
To finish up (and to make myself feel better) I will leave you with two quotes from Oscar Wilde:
‘The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you’ and
‘You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know’.