I frowned. Leant forwards in my seat. My eyes widened. My jaw dropped (I’ve read that in books and could never envision it but it actually does happen). My hands shot to my cheeks, my mouth, the top of my head. I drew breath sharply. And that was about just one performance.
Last night, I was due to catch up with a friend who’s back from touring his one-man show around the country (including in Hull! Near where I’m from! How exciting is that?! And I mean that entirely sincerely). I text him to make plans and he invited me to a poetry night.
I first started attending poetry nights just over two years ago. There was one that I went to right here in Streatham – a really intimate event with music and spoken word, the audience on comfy chairs and fresh smoothies to hand. What I heard there made my skin tingle. Instantly, I was hooked. On the wordplay, the stories, the rhythm in the delivery. How many more events could I take in? Apparently, lots.
I became an audience regular. Posting pictures and check-ins on Instagram and Facebook. Getting to know poets on the scene, some of whom I’m now thankful to call friends. I never once contemplated performing myself. The pressure of eyes on me, the vulnerability in that, the hot lights and all the opportunities for my hands and voice to shake… Nope, it doesn’t feel like my place. But I’ll take what those on the stage do and allow it to inspire me. To let what happens onstage excite what goes on the page.
After a while though, I reached saturation point. Turns out you really can get too much of a good thing. I reach these points in life generally. Fully absorbed in something to the point of near-obsession. Passionate and involved. I’m all in. Then it feels like my mind fogs over and I just don’t have another inch of room in there. For anything. I’m full up. Need to refocus. Need to rest.
It happened with poetry. I had to step back, let the poets do their wonderful thing, and I’d be back.
And back, apparently, is what I am. I’ve been approaching events again, clicking my fingers at the words that make my brain gasp. And then last night, at Chill Pill, my whole body reacted. It was like the newness of those first spine-shivers in Streatham all over again. I felt privileged to be in the room. I felt proud of what words can do. I felt awed by the mouths that mould these words, these simple, everyday words, into real, tangible pictures in my mind.
To the poets, I thank you. Keep doing what you do and I’ll keep being there, because my creativity needs this.