Sunday, 19 October 2008

Award Winning Poet!

So, the fateful day dawned last Tuesday and I competed in Poetstars at the Lescar. The format was 12 (ended up being 13 because of an admin cock up) poets each with 5 minutes to read, an appraisal from the judges, and marks out of 10 from the audience. I was glad the audience didnt just have toput one tick next to their favourite's name, as that would have made it more of a 'who has most friends in the audience' contest. This way was much fairer. However I was disappointed that the panel were as kind as they were. They really need a Simon Cowell/Nasty Nigel figure to spice it up. i suppose with the audience and poets' fans at such close quarters it would be risky to lay into them too much. The woman (can't remember her name) did get a few backhanded complements in here and there, all in all, I was psyched up for some abuse and felt a sense of anticlimax. The overall standard was good, and varied. i wish I hadremembered the names of more people. there was an amazing guy who wrote about (his?) experiences as a child soldier. I think it was autobiographical and it was really moving. I think he lost out because so many people had gone for laughs (myself included) that the audience weren'tin the right headspace for such a serious piece. there was also a really brilliant16 year old called Hattie/Hatty who had my vote. I honestly thought she was going to win, as did my mum and Missus! It was actually a bit freaky, as I am aka Hatty, and was very like her at 16, if less confident and self assured. If she had won it would have been like me winning 13 years ago... very odd! There were a couple of people I was less impressed with but good grace forbids me to comment. I will say though that if your poems aren't good enough to read without costumes and props and music and other whistles and bells, they are not going to be good enough WITH them, either!
I read 4 poems, all funny but on the sarcastic, caustic side. I tried to look sweet and innocent but channel Dorothy Parker. I was actually compared by the judges with Marriott Edgar. Close enough!
The upshot, as you my have gathered from the title, is that I won. Yippee! The third and second were a very matter of fact, understated but witty woman and a very dramatic, earnest young man who did things in character as other dramatic, earnest young men. He was reading Virgil before the comp, and I accused him of choosing deliberately intimidating reading matter. His reply 'What? It's only Virgil' - as if i had professed to be intimidated by his flashing a copy of Heat around, only proved my point. I laugh at him, but he was a nice kid, and did do very well...
When they had been announced and I knew that I'd either won or not made the top 3, and the person I had actually thought was best (Hattie) hadn't been second or third either, the tension was palpable. I was already getting commiserations from my family when they announced my name as the winner! I'd like to say that no one was more surprised than I was, but I have to say my mum was quite shocked!
I won tickets to see other performance poets in the off the shelf festival, a spot reading at the launch of Hallam's creative writing night on tuesday and a book of 30 poets complete with a dvd of them reading their own work. I've been reading it on my mammoth commutes. It's great.
I also got a trophy! My first EVER! I feel like a regional under 12s ice skating champion!
it's gracing the top of the piano, and my headno longer fits through the door.
God help you all if I win any more, if this is the length of post winning inspires in me!

Thursday, 9 October 2008


Working in a Year 5 class (8-9 year olds: the BEST age to be with in the edbiz) today, I hijacked a lesson by offering a performance poetry workshop inhonour of National Poetry Day. I knocked out an Alan Ahlberg ripoff style poem, comPLETEly sans irony, which was a new experience. Trite as hell, but casting my mind back to that age group I remembered that the thing that got me and my classmates really riled up was kids who always push in, and being a 'pusher' was about as morally egregious as, well, being a pusher in the more adult sense! Hence:

Polly Pusher
Poor little Polly Pusher
Some people say she's cursed:
She never can be happy
Unless she's always first.

She pushes in the dinner queue,
She pushes in P.E.
She'll push in front of everyone
Oh, why can't Polly see?

She's first to eat her dinner
And first into the yard;
But no-one wants to play with her:
She's pushed them all too hard!

Oh little Polly Pusher,
When will you ever learn?
You never will be happy
Until you can WAIT YOUR TURN!

Yeah, I know.
The kids liked it at least, and after a quick Q and A on what we could do to make listening to a poem more interesting (voices showing emotion, actions, showing the characters etc) I split them into groups and had them rehearse a performance of the poem. They were actually very cute. most involved one kid knocking all the others flying while another of them burbled out the verse while facing in the wrong direction, but there were a few slices of gold, like the kid pulling a full on melodrama/soapstar renditon "WHEN will you learn, Polly, WHEN!!!???" and ...What I guess was a modern dance piece based on queueing. the best part was the way they all clamoured and pushed to be first to show their work. That moral lesson went in, then!
Almost makes me want to teach.