Stage Fright

Tomorrow night there's another open mic at the newly-branded "Legendary Labour Club" in Northampton. The primarily spoken word Raising the Awen event. I've been there to read for the last two months but after the debacle of my brief slot in October, when I suffered some sort of psychological meltdown, I won't be attending this time. I'm going to my friend's house for the evening instead. Maybe dying my long grey hair purple at the roots.

Performance poetry is an art, and a very different one from writing poetry down. In the best poets the two arts cross over (Allen Ginsberg, Ron Whitehead, Jimtom Keith Thomas James). Some who write imperfect poetry can convince you they are wonderful because of the strength of their personality when they stand at the mic. That doesn't apply to me. I don't have the personality for standing up in front of a crowd and making them like me, or engage with anything I'm saying that's controversial or difficult. I don't want people to like me. I'm too afraid of them for that. I hate them too much for that. I don't want them to listen to me either because I know I'm full of shit. I just want my art to be a metaphorical sword that cuts off their heads and uses them for jack o'lanterns. I just want them to give me all their money and leave me the fuck alone. I want to bring the grave into the club without paying extra for the drinks.

People tell me to keep doing it until the confidence comes. There's probably some wisdom in that too. You can learn to do most things if you keep going at it for long enough. But why put myself through the pain when there's nothing to be gained from it? The last time I stood up there I felt like I'd been flayed alive. I sat in the darkness after my slot was finished hating myself for not making an impact and wishing fire and pestilence on everything and everyone around me (not fair maybe, but true). It didn't help that someone who was trying to be helpful stood at the mic and made a joke about the uncontrollable trembling of my hands. They shake like that because of the medication I'm on; and when I'm nervous they shake more. It makes me feel like a freak and I try to hide it - something you can't do on a stage with 20 or 30 people watching. When he joked about it an embarrassed man became a humiliated and angry man. If I could have exited from the club at that moment without making even more of a spectacle of myself I would have done it.

As it was I stayed until the end, behaving in a curiously apologetic, self-justifying manner as I slunk out of the door and into the night. When I woke up in the morning and thought about my catastrophic performance and obsequious behaviour at closing time, I didn't think I'd ever go out of the house again.

Well, I've done that. I'm here in the university now writing this. But when I'll be returning to the spoken word mic is another thing entirely. Certainly it won't be any time soon, not that I want anyone to think this is a problem for me.

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