Monday, May 28, 2007

Live at the Shore Poets

Last night, I was in performance at The Shore Poets monthly poetry 'gig'.

The evening kicked off with Richard Dawson, a singer-songwriter from Northumbria. He was very good – shades of Nick Drake, also a touch of Tom Waits, a touch of Martin Stephenson, a touch of gospel – downbeat, haunting vocals, fine guitar-playing.

Then I did my set – more of that in a minute.

After another few songs by Richard, Andrew Philip did his reading. He read a couple of quite long ones, sparse and meditative - intense, mesmorising stuff, but with a heart. You could hear the line-breaks and see the white space simply by listening. He read mainly new poems. Andy has become the first HappenStance author to sell out his chapbook, and didn’t need to advertise poems from it!

Kate Clanchy had cancelled on Friday evening with an attack of bronchitis, which was disappointing, but her ‘replacement’, Alistair Findlay, who had originally been booked to read sometime next year, was very entertaining. His poems centred around football and John Knox, but managed to talk about everything else that matters in Scotland in the process. He was a witty and engaging performer. It was as much theatre as poetry.

Richard finished off the evening with a few more songs.

My set got a good reaction. People laughed in the right places, and seemed to be concentrating during the serious bits. Nobody appeared to be nodding off. Afterwards, folk told me they’d enjoyed it a lot. But would you care to guess how many copies of The Clown of Natural Sorrow I sold?

Zero.

And you know, my chapbook costs no more than a pint of beer. So if any of you are feeling in a generous mood, please click on the link to The Clown and buy a copy now. You won’t regret it. Really…

Anyway, here are the titles of the poems I read (not that this will mean much to anyone):

1. Bananas
2. Marriage
3. Breaking the Hoodoo
4. The Hedge Artist
5. Plaster Cast
6. The Babysitter
7. Beyond the Blue
8. Advice to the Lion-Tamer on becoming a Poetry Critic
9. The Preacher’s Story
10. Scotlands

8 comments:

Colin Will said...

Your reading was excellent Rob. A most enjoyable evening. I think most of the poetry book buyers who were there last night already have copies. The trouble is that there aren't enough poetry book buyers out there. Last year I published a local history book written by a friend. It sold out and reprinted, then last week the buyer from Border Books asked for another 100 copies, so that's another reprint. Completely different from the poetry publishing side.

Andrew Shields said...

I think we need a poetrysetlists.com! :-)

Matt Merritt said...

I think Colin's right, Rob. I suspect most of it would be down to it being a hometown gig - in my very limited experience of reading, the further from home I've gone, the more books I've sold, which I presume is because I've already hassled all the potential local buyers into buying it.
Glad it went well though - I'd like to hear both you and Andrew read. How did 'Scotland' go down?

Rob said...

Yes, you're probably right, Colin and Matt. I've had several emails and phone calls today from people saying they enjoyed the reading - all of them already had the book.

Andrew, that could be really interesting. Sometimes titles are more interesting than their poems, so a site full of setlists is a great idea.

Matt - I chickened out of doing the "Scotland" parody. The poem I read last was "Scotlands", a quite different thing!

Andrew Philip said...

You did a very good reading, Rob, which makes the lack of sales even more frustrating. Did the clown who was talking to us after the gig not buy a copy? (For other readers of this, I'm not being rude: the woman in question really is a clown.)

I've also heard tell that there's an odd correlation between time of reading and number of sales, with the latter decreasing the later in the day the reading takes place. Bizarre notion, you might think. However, when Nell and I did our New Voices event in Dumfries in the afternoon, almost everyone bought a copy of Tonguefire; when we did the one in Glasgow, which was an evening event, almost nobody bought one. Which makes it all the more frustrating that the bluk of poetry readings are in evenings.

BW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Merritt said...

That might be true, Andrew. I did one in Nottingham in the afternoon and sold quite a few, but have sold less well at evening readings. Maybe it's because in the evenings, a lot of people are planning on going on elsewhere, and don't want to be carrying books with them.

Rob said...

No, the clown didn't buy The Clown, but she was so nice that I think I can forgive her. I have a link to her website that I'm going to investigate.

Maybe people buy less books in the evening because they are often buying drinks instead. In the afternoon, people are more ready to spend a few quid on a book. Interesting theory. I hadn't thought about that before.