Tuesday, 3 May 2011
Last Thursday I performed at the impeccable Take Ten at The Cumberland Arms. This was my first ‘gig’ since Shelter From the Storm (Trashed Organ) at The Bridge Hotel in January.
A literary friend (there’s a poncey term if ever I heard one) came over after my set and told me it’d been a while since she’d seen me read. It was true, I told her: I’d been having a bit of poetic down-time.
I read seven poems which formed, I hope, the freshest set I’ve done in Newcastle since I first started reading at home nearly a year ago. It’s good to have a break. When I first gigged back in the North East last May ‒ coincidentally at Ten by Ten, Jeff Price’s equally wonderful, preceding event ‒ I was bringing to the audience an unmarked poetic delivery. Make no mistake about it, in May 2010, my poems were fresher than Tyne water salmon.
‘Continual’ (I use the term loosely, as a poetic aspiration to the devotion of gut-busting folk-punk singer, Frank Turner) gigging from late July into December, though, left me feeling like…well, as if the audience had heard the one about the dog and my Granddad more times than was funny. They had. It was good doing ‘the circuit’: Pink Lane, Jibba Jabba, Ten by Ten, Poetry Jam, First We Take Manhattan, A Night of Poetry, Trashed Organ, my own Cellar Door, Free as a Bard, The Polite Room, many of these twice, but I started to empathise with the post-tour blues that can ail and even destroy a band after pedalling a new album.
So it was with a renewed sense of vigour that I returned to The Cumberland. I don’t wish to heavily critique my own set, but I am aware that I may be becoming a thematic poet; may be easily pigeonholed as the bloke who writes fairly oblique elegies about industrial demise, or if he’s not doing that, is looking wilfully into his family history. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with that, but the gap in performances clearly made me see my poems from a new angle, from the spectator’s side of things. I’m going to muse on this more, but I think it can only point one way: write more, write about more.