Hot hot morning in Austin. I lay on my bed, one leg dangling, surrounded by poems. Incense smouldered sufficiently far away from the smoke detector. Occasional hot tears trailed down my cheeks, mostly of wonder at the way in which a thought had been expressed. Occasionally a little cough, a sip of water, a moment of stopping and gazing out of the window in wonder at the fact that life has taken me here like this. To an outside eye I might as well have been consumptive, like some of the writers I was embodying.
I didn’t really know where I’d be doing the recital, having not taken the time to scout ahead. I didn’t even know whether or not I’d have a microphone, or what order I’d do the poems in. Strangely I wasn’t concerned about those details. I just wanted to make sure my choices hung together.
Shroothi my guide picked me up at half eleven. I was nervously rearranging pieces of paper in the foyer. She took me to the recital venue – a courtyard where thankfully there was a microphone conveniently located in a patch of sun. I’d be visible then, just baked in my three piece. “Take your jacket off”, says Jono. “Poets wear waistcoats.” I didn’t need to be told twice.
I’d been arguing with myself as to whether or not to start with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It’s a risk. It’s 25 minutes long and if I lose them they’re lost for good. I don’t know it like I know Nightingale, Ozymandias, Kubla etc. Should I start with something I’m more confident with? No. This is me you’re talking about. Almost despite myself, at the lectern I tell them I’ll start with Rime. It’s pretty easy to understand apart from that overlong bit with the spirits.
The audience is still there at the end, and I’ve gathered a crowd. I start to get swept up in the language and the arguments, bouncing through poem after poem, improvising links, changing styles, enjoying myself more and more. Claire is sat under a tree watching, Katherine and Kaffe are over on a wall to my right, Jono is hiding so he doesn’t throw me. The whole company is here to support me. If I ever fall off my energy I just need to look out and they’re all there radiating back at me. I have too much material, and a clock that marks the quarters so no need to consult my watch. Nonetheless I’m halfway through Tintern Abbey when the clock goes. I offer to stop but they’re having none of it so I click back in and then do I’ll go no more a’roving for the heck of it as a finisher. Lovely reaction. A gorgeous thing to have done, to share my love of C19th English Poetry with an audience of strangers and passers by in the heart of the Lone Star State.
Then I snuck off for ramen at Tetsu-ya. A good time for carbohydrates and nourishment. We are all going to have to do Twelfth Night again tonight and I’ll need to rebuild my energy before giving it all away again as Belch.