So, we ran an open mic night at The Crimson Word, called ‘Gender: Mind your own Body’. I wrote a poem for the night. A rumination on my relationship with my body and my gender over the years. My friend, the poet Tom Bland came to read for us. He has started a new online magazine called ‘Spontaneous Poeticals” and has published my poem ‘Bad Feminist’ in it. You can read it here.
Tom has recently published a poetry book, ‘The Death of a Clown’, with Bad Betty Press. It darkly funny, philosophical and kinky. You can purchase it here.
As well as sharing my passion for small, intimate poetry, co-director of The Crimson Word, Winter James, also has a love for directing MASSIVE IMMERSIVE EVENTS. She hired me to perform poetry as ‘The Baba Yaga’ with fellow poet, burlesque artist and aerialist, Naomi Wood for her ‘Carnal Theatre’ event ‘FemmeDaemonium‘ – exploring the woman betrayed and reviled in mythology. I played the older Baba Yaga to Naomi Wood’s younger ‘seeker’. Here is Naomi’s poem, Changeling, featured in ‘You are Hysterical‘ which she had performed at the first FemmeDaemonium event and had invited me to join for the recent one. I took a huge risk in the poetry making; writing some framing verses inspired by the writings of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and then asked the members of the audience to ask a question. I tried to make my answers as poetical as possible; but I am still not sure that I pulled it off. What is poetry? I started the New Year working at an event where I had to flatter people. Somehow I inveigled it so that I dictated the content of their flattery certificates to them, and then signed, with a flourish ‘Debra Watson’ whilst simultaneously saying, “Signed: Debra Watson, Poet!” So now, I am not certain. Is it poetry just because I say it is? I am reading Michael Ondaatje’s new book, ‘Warlight’. Ondaatje is a poet. It shows through his prose. I fell in love with his work since the first pages of his novel ‘In the skin of a lion’, where he describes the building of a bridge in such beautiful detail that it instilled a love for me in bridges that I don’t believe was present before that reading. I think it also has a nun falling. At any rate, that is not important, what is important is the way in which he, Ondaatje, can write a sentence or a description that stops you dead in your tracks. The art of the story as narrative, as plot, simply disappears. The art of the story becomes the use of language to burrow holes into alternative ways of seeing, describing and being in the world. “Is this poetry?” I don’t even have to ask. Ondaatje answers anyway, ‘It is all poetry’.
I myself have no clear idea of what I want to achieve with poetry. Writing is a way of me ‘sorting things out’. I am attracted to the music and shape of ideas. To the sounds of words. To the images they paint. I have never hoped of much for poetry except that it is my way of settling into myself; a form of explaining. I am always astounded, that like a tuning fork, my words can bring me closer to people. That in some ways words, that great masker of truth, can also reveal and forge a deeper connectivity.
I’d like to know. What do you think poetry is? What is it for?