Saturday, March 07, 2009


Thursday's reading at St Mungo's Mirrorball with Rob A Mackenzie and performance poet Robin Cairns was a good night. As usual, Mr Mackenzie has got in ahead of me and blogged about it already. As he says, it was a varied evening but the audience was happy to switch mood and style along with each reader. It was a decent-sized crowd too.

Rob was up first (you can find his set list at his post), reading from The Opposite of Cabbage for the first time. For literary poets like Rob and me, I think there's a greater degree of confidence that comes with holding your book in your hand in front of an audience. Rob and I have seen each other's books in varying states of manuscript, but the authority of the printed and bound article allows us to sit back and enjoy the poems. It gives them a stamp of finality that's obviously lacking in a draft. That effect holds for the live reading, I think. Seeing how well the audience reacted to Rob's work simply served to reinforce its wit, sophistication, intelligence and passion; its mix of irony, cynicism and compassion; it's freshness and quality.

Robin Cairns, as is often the case with performance poets, performed all his work from memory. It's an impressive skill, especially given that we're not talking about short lyrics here. He's a highly confident performer and certainly gets the audience laughing. For me, though, his best piece was a serious one: an accomplished ballad exploring how music breaks down barriers between individuals. Robin was launching his first pamphlet.

I came last, setting a different tone for the end of the evening with The Ambulance Box. Here's what I read:

  1. "The Ambulance Box"
  2. "Cardiac"
  3. "To Bake the Bread"
  4. "The Meisure o a Nation"
  5. "The Invention of Zero"
  6. "45 Minutes"
  7. "Waukrife"
  8. "Lullaby"
  9. "Notes to Self"
Quite a varied bunch, but moving into gradually more direct poems about my son's death in its second half. It was the first time I've opened a set with the title poem, which seemed to work fine in pole position. I very much enjoyed having such an attentive and appreciative audience. Several people were clearly listening carefully. The applause and post-reading comments were warm, and I sold a decent number of books too.

After the gig, Rob and I wound up in the CCA Bar for a pint with one of my oldest mates and his friend the visual/minimalist poet Stephen Nelson, whom I'd met previously at the Mitchell Library. A fine end to a really good night.


Rob said...

You know, I knew that guy's name was Stephen, but I didn't realise he was Stephen Nelson. I'd never met him before, but I had bought his pamphlet, 'The Faithful City: Visual Poems' at the Chritmas Poetry Pamphlet Fair a couple of years ago (perhaps I did buy it from him - I can't remember). It's good stuff, very aesthetically pleasing. I didn't realise he had a blog either, but I'm glad to find it.

Andrew Philip said...

Yes, it's a good pamphlet that. I like the way his use of colour adds a further dimension to the familiar concrete approach. Really nicely produced. He's a good bloke, is Stephen.

Stephen Nelson said...

Thanks guys! And thanks for a great reading. The poetry was excellent and I enjoyed the variety of styles and performance.

Rob, I seem to remember selling you the pamphlet. In fact it's all flooding back. Very kind of you. Glad you liked it. Good to meet you again and hear you're lovely poetry - Andy's comments about it are spot on!

Stephen Nelson said...

You ARE lovely poetry Rob, but the poetry you write is even lovelier. Hey, it's late.

word verif: "cyclate"

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