On Saturday I went to Morley in Yorkshire to collect my certificate for the Friends of Morley Literature Festival Short Story Competition. It was a lovely evening which featured Andrew McMillan (not sure if he’s any relation to Ian) reading poetry that had been written for a special project undertaken in conjunction with the Literature Festival.
Four families in the area chose paintings from Leeds Art Gallery to hang in their homes for 3 months. Andrew went out to visit these families and talk to them about how they felt about the art works. He then used these conversations as triggers for poems. Three local schools also chose pictures to hang in their classrooms for a similar project but this time the children wrote the poems with Andrew acting as their mentor.
Andrew has a wonderful way of performing poetry and he brought the children’s colourful language & unusual ideas to life with his gestures, timing and strong regional accent. Similarly, hearing him read his own poems made them so much more vivid (for a non-poet like me) than simply reading words on a page.
So, to be a successful poet do you have to be able to perform with panache and carry the audience with your words? Or can you succeed as a shrinking violet? I imagine that few people buy books of poetry these days and therefore a confident performance is essential to build a following.
The evening continued with a gig by the comedian Arthur Smith (of Grumpy Old Men). He was brilliant but surprised me by including poems (which he knew off by heart) in his act. My favourite was The Mower by Philip Larkin, which is a rather sad tale about a hedgehog.
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