I’m not sure what I expected from the reading and book launch yesterday. Of course, there was always the naive and simplistic hope, skulking in a dark corner somewhere, that at the end of the reading there would be a prolonged standing ovation, followed by a huge queue to buy my book and to secure my signature… I would be feted.
But that was never going to happen..!
In reality, I was more nervous than I expected – and it showed – but I hope I warmed to my task sufficiently for that not to be too much of a distraction for the audience (a small-ish room, but it was full!). I think the poems I chose worked well enough, and the thread that I tried to weave between them, to get one leading on to the next in some kind of meaningful sequence, generated a suitable flow. I couldn’t have planned it without a prevailing sense of logic somewhere!
One or two of the pieces seemed to go down particularly well, and afterwards there was specific praise from people I know and respect – and on reflection it probably doesn’t get any better than that. It was rewarding that my style of reading – its pace and clarity – got a positive mention too. It gave the listeners a chance. After all, hearing poetry cold is pretty tough, and actually doesn’t do the reader or listener any favours at all.
Interestingly – and perceptively – I was also asked if it was an anti-climax. Not, I suppose, in the sense that it wasn’t what I expected, but more in how I felt about it once it was over. Fantasy aside, it was exactly what I had expected – but the feeling immediately afterwards was a complex one.
Yes, there was a sense of pride and achievement – even a little basking in the glow of knowing that ‘Ripples’, for example, had been so well received. But the uppermost emotion – after, I must confess, a degree of confusion I couldn’t put a name to – was emptiness. The reading (and the book as a whole) had been such a focal point for so long, an event absorbing me more than I had realised – and probably more important to me than I had realised – that when it was suddenly over I was hit by a feeling of having stepped into something of a void.
So, what now? That was the question that accompanied me on my walk home afterwards.
Of course, on the purely practical level I have things on the go already, so it’s not as if I am bereft of ideas or projects. But I realise now that I had expected the reading to resolve some profound but unarticulated question; as if it would give me “an answer”. I think I had a nagging sense of this in the build-up to the event, but then – as now, in the immediate aftermath – it is unfinished business.
Perhaps the answer is actually there, of course – I just need to find a way to reveal the question that was being asked.