Battleaxe learns about performing poetry – with Live Canon

As readers will know, I have made efforts to take part in poetry readings, with varying degrees of success. One of my resolutions for this year was to do better, so booked onto a one-day course in London with an outfit called Live Canon.

Sorry – pinched this off the internet….

     If you want to know what I am talking about see previous posts, eg the WI Literary Lunch and St Clement’s Church and the horrors of St Leonard’s Festival. 
     We do have Slam Dunk –  a poetry slam night in Hastings – I’ve been to watch, but there are rather a lot of what I describe as ‘ranters’ and others who seem to think that the merits of a poem lie in maximum amounts of effing and blinding twattery … I know that’s a bit unfair and it’s probably only me making excuses for not joining in…
     Live Canon  has an ensemble that performs and records poetry. It publishes poetry and puts on competitions and poetry events.  It is largely run by free-lancers, volunteers etc., but seems to be a really good thing.  The leader of our Stanza group, Antony Mair, went on a course and enjoyed it, and recommended it, so me and friend Jill signed up.  Jill is a seriously good poet …
     Had a horrendous journey up to London on the Sunday night – for reasons I won’t bore on about I got stranded in freezing cold at Clapham Junction on the way to stay the night with friend Shaun McKenna in St Margaret’s… honestly, our railways are a disgrace when you want to travel on a Sunday.  However, I got there, and had a very nice evening in Shaun’s new little house. It is very modern and bijou. He could have run the poetry course himself, with his luvvie past – ‘it’s all in the breath, dear…’  Well, true. When I’m nervous I hardly breathe at all….
     Next day I forged up to Warren Street in looming snow and met Jill at the venue, the Diorama Arts Centre. There were only seven of us in the group, which was excellent. Six women and one man, which apparently is the usual order of things…. don’t ask me to speculate why. The course leader was Helen Eastman, the director of Live Canon.
     It was a really excellent day, and we both learned an incredible amount. Firstly, as with all things in this life, it is about preparation. I’ve always just chosen the poems that I fancied reading, printed them off as usual, stuffed the pieces of paper in my bag and set off for the gig without another thought. I’m not alone in this – and some are even less prepared – rolling up to read off their phones. Not a good look.
    We learned about using a book to hold our poems rather than flappy bits of paper, laying out the poems to suit how we wanted to read them, cutting and pasting them into chunks, marking them up where we wanted emphasis, loud, soft, pauses etc…. wow.  Then all about preparing our bodies and our voices – yes – it is all in the breath, dears and we should be going eeee aaaa oooo with our faces… then all about presenting ourselves, starting and finishing, and managing microphones.
     Ideally, we’d be memorising our poems – I don’t think I can do that.  The course was brilliant value and I’d recommend it to anyone – we had a really tasty lunch as well.
     Talking of brilliant value, next bit not so much. We arrived at Charing Cross between trains and went into the bar for a drink. I set out to buy Jill a drink and we both ordered wine (small glasses…). The barman says ‘£16.10 please’. What?  The bar is a total dive as well…. Never again.
     Back in Hastings – today was a glorious sunny morning. Digby was soaking up the rays on our bed, and we went down to the Pier – far from being the coldest day of the year it was warm, windless and wonderfully sunny – oh to have had weather like it in the Canary Islands last week!

Digby makes the most of the sun
Beautiful view from the Pier
And another…..


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