So, our second event in Montrose...how did it go? I think I need numbered answers...brain's a bit tired.
1.Well, first off, I was glad to get there at all. My Mum had been horribly ill earlier in the week and at one point I arranged 'emergency poetry compere cover' because I thought I wouldn't make it on the night. Luckily by Friday Mum was well enough to leave with friends looking after her so I made it to the Links on time. Phew.
2.Last October the venue filled up really quickly (in fact it was pretty much full before the time the doors were supposed to be open to the public) but this time the audience rolled in more slowly (thus enducing mild panic in this organiser). No need to worry though...by 8pm we had a good crowd...all ready and waiting for poems and tunes.
3.Andy Shanks was on first – singing, playing the guitar and telling a tale or two in between songs (folk singers are so good at that). Andy has a lovely warm voice and is a really polished and professional performer with a wide range of material. He was on great form – a very enjoyable set all round.
4.Next up was Helena Nelson - a poet I've read a fair bit but never heard or seen perform before. I was thrilled to finally discover for myself what a totally mesmerising performer she is and though I know this isn't the generally accepted way of talking about poets I think that on stage she has a magical star quality (and the poems are strong so she has great material too). The audience were completely entranced...so what I want to know is why isn't she headlining at poetry festivals around the country (and beyond)? Maybe she doesn't want to...but still I'd like to see her name in more programmes. She's a real one-off...not like any other poet I've seen before really. Dazzling.
5.I read a poem here and there too...one inspired by a Picasso painting, an old favourite ('Let me be your fridge magnet') and one newish one ('Set text fever' – it's back here). I particularly enjoyed reading this time... perhaps because it had been such a hard week in real life that it was lovely to throw myself into some poems instead... also because it was a lovely, warm, positive audience (I got lots of great comments about the whole event – about the variety, the quality, the atmosphere, the venue...).
Me (Rachel Fox), in amongst the raffle tickets and the drinks
6.Finally the second half of the night was pretty much given over to Don Paterson for poems and music. Paterson had just found out about the death of a friend (the poet Peter Porter) and this did visibly (and audibly) affect his reading (I have heard him engage more with an audience than he did last night...and he was very quiet...not in the mood to put on a show really, I imagine). However poets are people not machines and I don't think we need expect singing and dancing at all times - it was still a performance with much to show and tell us, the eager audience. There was plenty of gloom, yes, and there were several poems off on a deep voyage of investigation but also there were aphorisms (when he felt himself getting too gloomy...) and there were some lovely observations and little stories too. Most of all I think there was some fantastic playing – he played two long beautiful guitar pieces (eyes closed, a few pints down) and they were both totally bewitching (and hell, I am a long, long way from a jazz fan). To be such a talented musician and such a successful writer...can't be bad, eh? Pretty amazing.
And again - Don Paterson
So all in all, another brilliant night. Thanks to all the performers, to my friends-and-family support team and to all those who came along too. Special thanks to our friend Scott Henriksen for all the photos in this post (I just threw our not-particularly-special camera at him because the local news photographer came and took some posed shots early doors but couldn't hang around for the night). I hope to see most of you back at the Links in October for another National Poetry Day (plus one) but for now I must go and lie down...well, maybe.
p.s. Helena Nelson has also written about this event here.