I’ve lucked out. I’m in a tower room here in Austin. Top of the hotel. Balcony. I’m sitting here in the evening swelter watching the town go by. I’ve been reading poetry, choosing. I’ve got a wonderful opportunity. A chance to share my love of poetry. A one hour recital, poems of my choice, outdoors, day after tomorrow. High noon. I chose to do the Romantic era.
Problem is, all the poetry I learnt as a boy from that era was written by men. All the poetry I obsessed over and swore by came from amazing men. And it’s wonderful poetry. But the reason I don’t know the heartstopping poems by women is because people like me didn’t feature them in their recitals. It’s my job to address that discrepancy.
So here I am bathing in the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, of Christina Rossetti of Eliza Cook, of Anne Bronte. In the process, I’m discovering that the men used more words but often the point is closed in upon swifter by the women. But it means I need to perform more of these unfamiliar poems as they’re short, but also I’ve got to be able to smash reading them, so these big barnstorming male poems that I crammed as a youth will give me a structure and a safe launch point, and the women’s poems will be my bits where I’m basically sight-reading but doing it to the best of my ability. I’ll read the unfamiliar to educate myself and my audience. We have to strike towards balance. I’d hate myself to go out there and read nowt but men. Particularly considering the revelations I’ve had with these amazing unfamiliar poems. As with any great poem, they challenge my heart.
My working fulcrum centres around the intellectual/emotional. I play the clever or the lost. The manipulator or the manipulated. Doctor Frankenstein or The Monster. I play a lot more than that obviously etc etc. But that’s an easy cross for me. Right now I’m playing the party fun, but the dark party fun. Belch is manipulator supreme, manipulated by his own addiction but charismatic and utterly alive. He’s larger than life but a bully. He’s on the posh side. Antonio just does what is needed. It’s already telling, in Q&A sessions, how many people are drawn to Belch. He’s a manipulator that thinks he deserves everything for free because he’s charismatic. He destroys the people around him without compassion or remorse. And ha ha ha isn’t it funny ha ha.
This is work! How is that possible? I’m in this amazing city. I’m in a group of five beautiful humans. We are all looking after each other.
We arrived here this evening and ended up going out for mescal and good company. Now I’m back in my remarkable room and I’m thrilled to be here. We all had a night out and it was ace but until I’ve got my hour of poetry sorted I’ll not rest. Sure, I could do it with the poems I loved as a kid. But no. I’ve got to take in who I am now and what I care about. We shift, and our priorities shift as we do so.
Nevertheless, Wednesday at noon at the Harry Ransom Centre Courtyard in Austin Texas is gonna be the best lunch hour you can imagine.
Al Barclay blows his own mind and yours with beautiful poems, some of which he learnt as a teenager thinking it would get him girls and others that were so far out of his awkward understand because they were actually written by scary girls hundreds of years ago. You might see him show his dualistic nature. You might not. Wordy thinky men poems. Worky finishy feely female ones. I need more of the latter, even if I can’t get through the EB Browning poem without crying…