The poetry slam wasn't all bad news though. My poems for round one were reasonably well received by the audience, I didn't come last in my heat (second of three), I did as well as some of the winners in other heats, the organiser told me she thought I'd been good and that I should do some more slams.
I still went out in round one though.
Apart from that it was a fine evening. In a small room, a packed audience watched fifteen performers compete and there was enough of a range of poetry to suit every taste. Mostly, though not exclusively, the successful acts were the ones who did it in a loud, gesticulating, almost ranting, style or as a kind of character comedy performance rather than simply as a piece of poetry. The winner, for example, did three pieces all involving props and costumes: one as a toilet cleaner, one as a football fan and one as barman. Another poet performed as a yobbish teenage girl and another as ranting work-shy layabout.
I tried to put some expression into my performance but did it as me. I'm a poet not an actor. I didn't agree with all the voting but it's a very subjective matter and I can honestly say that there weren't any performances that I didn't enjoy. My personal preference is generally for the quieter, subtler performances which seems to be less well received generally.
Which of course may account for why I went out in round one.
Apparently we no longer have a library in the college. It's been redesignated as a "learning hub". I was told that they are providing a cutting edge service. Is it technically even possible to be both a hub and an edge at the same time?
There was one of those Sunday morning debates on TV today that I tend to watch with half an eye, listen to with half an ear and process with half a brain. That's pertinent because the debate was about whether or not watching TV is bad for children. It's such a common debate that it's hard not to have to suppress a yawn.
I thought that the claim that British infants watch an average of six hours a day was unlikely but for the purpose of the point I want to make I'll accept it at face value. What struck me though was that some of the comments made mirrored almost exactly things I have heard before in other circumstances.
Watching so much TV, and using computers, is bad for children's eyes.
Watching TV, and using computers, is a solitary activity that deprives children of the interaction necessary to learn social skills.
Watching TV, and using computers, is a sedentary activity that prevents children getting the amount of exercise that they need.
Watching TV, and using computers, is bad for children's emotional development as they never make any real friends.
And the circumstances in which I have heard them before?
About me when I was a solitary child who much preferred sitting reading a book to being out in the street playing football. They are exactly the kind of comments that my parents used to use to try to badger me into leaving the happy nest of my library-like room and go out into the big bad world to play with a lot of kids who liked me about as much as I liked them. Substitute "reading all the time" at the start of each sentence and you have the comments pretty accurately quoted.
I'm betting that at every point in history there has been someone saying that something is stunting kids physical and emotional development and I'm also betting that it's as wrong now as it's ever been.
I have decided that I will take up the invitation to take part in the poetry slam at the Hollybush in Cradley Heath on Sunday 19th September. I've been thinking about trying out slams as an alternate venue for my poetry for a while and this seems like a good time to do it. The venue is smaller and less intimidating than many and the organisers are actively encouraging people who have never taken part before to try it.
I have some ideas about the poems to use and, after my performance at Bilston Voices, I fully intend to learn them and perform rather than read.
If nothing else, I'm sure it will be great fun. Pity about the timing. The slam is in September and I am attending a performance poetry course in November. Oh well, things are very rarely perfect.