Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gerry Cambridge

I don’t know how I managed to miss this at the time, a week-long blog by Gerry Cambridge, answering questions from Scottish schoolchildren. I’m glad I’ve found it now. It’s really good. You’ll learn from it (among many other things) how many poets it takes to change a lightbulb, why poetry isn’t just for sissies, and:

I remember a bit of advice about writing poems, which also applies to readings:
"If you can't make it good, at least make it short."

The worst types of readings are those the poet begins with, "I don't usually read in public my long, difficult poems about the fate of modern man, but tonight I'm going to make an exception..."

5 comments:

apprentice said...

Thanks for the heads up on this, it makes wonderful reading.

I fully agree with you on the rwading advice. We dis the IKEA thing on Sunday, and there was really no point in trying to deliver complicated poems, but a few tried all the same.

I like his reference to Ayrshire and umbrellas, having grown up there I can confirm a brolly comes in handy on about 365 days a year.

apprentice said...

Ah, I meant reading and did, fingers ahead of brain as ever.

Roddy said...

I once had the 'support act' of a young poet who began with a rant in favour of the longer poem, and which moaned about the dumbdown effect of poets trying to please audiences with certain types of short poem. He then announced he was going to read two long pieces about police brutality, and this, to the great irritation and constant shuffling of the audience, he did for what seemed like an hour.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Yes, I like some long poems, but carrying them off live is another matter. If a poem is bad as well as long, it's awful to sit through.

When I saw Paul Muldoon, he read a long poem, but split it into two parts, one at the beginning of his performance, one at the end. That worked quite well, but mainly because it was a good poem.

I do find it hard to pick up on complexities when listening to readings. If I start to think about them, I miss the rest of the poem. Then I start to wonder if it's just me, as everyone else in the audience seems to be paying rapt attention.

Cailleach said...

Oh this makes me laugh! I once did a Christmas reading in a church, where one of the poets decided to make the most of the event by reading an extraodinarily long poem which totally baffled the audience.

After about ten minutes of the onslaught, you could hear the audience getting restless as the level of conversation rose in the church... Needless to say the poet in question didn't seem to notice or mind, really!