A while ago I wrote a poem.
It wanted to come out. It formed in my head while I was in the sauna. It was there, fully formed, and I just had to run to the locker room and take it down, in my notebook, on paper. I don’t write on paper much these days, but I am pretentious enough to always carry a really nice notebook with me. How handy.
I got home, typed it up, showed it to some close friends, who were positive about it – but then they are friends, so who knows. My best friend said it had made her cry. These were all people who I had shared things about my history with, so they knew what, and who, I was talking about. No idea what anyone else would think of it. I had put it out there, I left it.
Until my friend Jo pointed out this poetry workshop flyer to me – in relation to something quite unrelated. And I showed it to some friends, joking that I should totally do this crazy thing and read this poem I wrote. Haha, that would be hilarious. Outrageous.
But imagine if I could do it. Read this, with full emotional intensity. To the people who have feelings about this stuff.
I had never read it out loud and I wasn’t planning to. I knew it is valid and true for me but I didn’t know how other people would see it. I’m not a poet, real poets would probably laugh at me.
So going to a poetry workshop, armed with two copies of the only poem I have ever written, to perform it in front of actual other people, wasn’t anywhere near comfortable.
The workshop was held by Eve Pearce, a wonderful veteran actress. We did breathing exercises, then the six people around the table (mostly women, one man) took turns to read out their poetry and Eve gave her feedback on how to improve.
There were two actual poets reading before me. One read a poem written by her mother (and sadly the name has escaped me), the next one, Heather, read a wonderful poem she had written about almost, but not really, meeting people.
I was really quite apprehensive about reading mine out loud. And then it was my turn.
I read the first part, Eve (predictably, I thought) interrupted me and asked me to think about what I was trying to get out of this. We had a tea break. I was fully prepared to skip the whole thing, walk away from it. Couldn’t really drink tea and eat biscuits at this point, just had a few glasses of water.
Tea break over, and when Eve said OK Anke, now tell us. I said: Ok, this poem is a product of a particular moment of reflection and it really doesn’t matter. What I really want to do is get better at speaking professionally.
Ok, there were lots of books on the shelves and I could pick a proper poem by a proper writer and read that. Good.
But she then said: Please read it to us.
I read the whole poem, without interruption. I looked up, and Lara, on the other side of the table in front of me, was crying. The entire room was stunned.
I wasn’t crying at this point.
But when Eve made me start again, really thinking of what I was saying, and worse, really thinking of the person I was saying it to, and then said: I know you don’t want to. We’re all with you. And everyone around the table said yes, we are. THEN I started. But I could still read.
We worked on the first part. I was happy for the support and the – validation, is that what it’s called?
I don’t think they were lying when they said it had affected them. Eve kept saying And you have never written poetry before? This is quite remarkable.
Eve also said that she felt a lot of empathy because among her friends, someone’s child had joined a cult type environment. The parents got him out but inside he was still different. Me working on becoming whole again, through writing, seemed to make sense.
So after me, two more poems were read, they were really lovely too, and then it was almost ten and I couldn’t stay to hear the last one. Lara asked me if she could keep my spare copy. I have… really affected people?
And all last night and this morning I’ve been walking around and telling myself: I’ve made some art. I? Have made Art? Words that made people feel things? And – performed them? out loud? Me??