Tuesday, 18 November 2008

And now for the video evidence

Well, it sounds like some of you have already seen this on YouTube but here is a video clip of me from last Friday's trip to Edinburgh (full report in post below if you haven't already read it). The video side of things was all a bit of an experiment but I think all the footage has come out really well so thanks, oh beloved Mark (as ever). There is a little background noise of people buying drinks and stuff but that just adds to the ambience I think! Hugh McMillan has one of his clips on his blog just now (there are three of him in total – all brilliant) but I've only chosen this one for me as it's quite a long piece. It's the very new dancing poem that I was mentioning a few posts ago and it is absolutely PACKED with rhymes so if you don't like rhyming poems best not look or listen! I write rhyme when it feels right and non-rhyme...ditto...and in this case heaps and heaps of bouncing rhymes seemed the way to go (with some non-rhyming bits here and there too). The form matches the content for me as the poem is the product of all my years dancing (disco dancing, headbanging, raving, ceilidh dancing, ballroom dancing...). It is also a kind of tribute to some of my very best friends (many of whom are crazy dancers of one kind or another) as well being about life, happiness, taking part and...well, you know...everything. As I mentioned in my intro (which was too long to include!) I also had in mind the documentary that Stephen Fry made about manic depression/bipolar disorder (which I watched for the obvious family reasons). There was one section where Fry talked about dancing and how self-conscious he felt and how unhappy he was about his body. He talked about how there was nothing he would like more than to be out on the dancefloor, grooving and looking great and there were a lot of sad moments in that series but that was one that I remember particularly. There is nothing like a dance!

Apologies however for my odd Scouse-goes-Welsh pronunciation on the title. I'm not sure what happened there!

41 comments:

smith3000 said...

Brilliant, looks like a lot of fun. I'm so pleased for you! You are a crowdpleaser again!

Have you thought about a lecturn? Or learning them all the way through? Or do you like having something to do with your hands?

xx

Poetikat said...

As Kate Bush once wrote, sang, said: "Wow, wow, wow!"

Kat

Rachel Fox said...

Kat - I love that song!

And Smithy - don't know about crowdpleaser...here and there maybe...

I have tried learning poems off by heart but my memory is rubbish (can't think why..) and it means I'm on edge about remembering them and therefore much less relaxed about the whole thing, the intros and outros and the general waffling (I get a lot of compliments for my waffle, I'll have you know!). When I read one from memory at the folk club Mark said I looked really distracted (like a primary school child concentrating really hard!). Plus the book is a bit of a prop too...I like having it with me.

It means I'll never be part of the whole slam/spoken word/performance poetry thing (where most people do recite from memory as far as I know) but really, that's OK. I'll float about here in the middle...bring on the misfit tango.
x

BarbaraS said...

Lovely to hear you in person: makes good sense and sounds lovely

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Barbara...you're very kind! I think next time a couple of pauses for breath might be a good idea too! I made the mistake of reading the next poem without taking a drink (it was very hot under those lights!) and I nearly ran out of steam mid-way through it. I'll probably read this one at the folk club next time...and try a few more pauses!
x

McGuire said...

I remember this one, it was good, I particularly liked the line 'like a stone tied to a chair' a hilarious image!

Your rhyming is spot on too, something I often have difficutly achieving.

Bravo! And, I agree about the breathing, don't sprint, jog in a moderate fashion, so that everyone can keep the pace or catch up with you.

Rachel Fox said...

Funny you mention that line...when I see it in my head sometimes I see a peach stone...which is a bit Roald Dahl I think. Other times it's just a big old rock.

Thanks re the rhyming. I love rhyming - it makes me happy! It will come back in fashion one of these days...

And breathing...yes...I must practice that!

x

shug said...

Breathing's completely overrated; think of all the other things you could be doing.

Rachel Fox said...

Easy for you to say...I watched you...you were good at it! Maybe you need to organise workshops...touring workshops...

Fiendish said...

Rachel, I love it. Your poetry is added to still further by your sparkling performance. Bravo indeed.

Also, it's cool to know what you sound like! I like your accent.

Rachel Fox said...

You should see my dancing...

hope said...

If we ask nicely, can your Beloved make a video of that as well? :)

hope said...

Um, I added the word "dancing" but blogger was quicker than my editing skills.

Rachel Fox said...

I don't think he'd be able to hold the camera for laughing!
x

Jim Murdoch said...

Now if John Cooper Clarke and Victoria Wood ever had a kid…

But seriously, it sounded fine – you perform well – and that's what I've come away with from this, the sound rather than the meaning, a performance as opposed to a reading. This is not a criticism merely an observation. I, of course, can now go back and play the thing over and over again but the people there only have the one go to make of this what they can. That's probably my main objection to poetry readings, the fact you only get one crack at the piece. When I see your poems on the page I read them several times over; maybe I'm just slow. Looks like you had fun though.

Dave King said...

A great reading/performance - I half agree with Jim in that I feel you did paint the words, but that is something that does not bother me. A very personal thing, I suppose. I need to read it now to see how it compares. Impressive sums it up I think.
And now to another matter:
Some days (weeks?) ago I was tagged from that very delightful blog AcornMoon to provide seven facts about myself (unusual ones if possible, I think it said - absolutely impossible, of course!). Having done which, I was then to tag seven others to do likewise, and finally to leave a message with each to let them know they had been tagged.

The first part of the challenge will be discharged on my blog with a post scheduled for tomorrow.
You willhave guessed by now that you are one of my choices for Part 2. Please regard it as a suggestion only - I would not like anyone to feel compelled in any way to pick it up, but if you feel able and willing, please go to my blog any time from tomorrow (Thursday) onwards for the full details, post your seven revelations abut yourself on your own blog, then choose another seven blogs and pass the challenge on. Good luck!

Liz said...

Rachel, congrats on the reading - I enjoyed it...you definitely seem to have what it takes, love how you indeed did make the words dance... : ) This is from someone who has never read poetry in front of an audience...I would have been throwing my hat in the air...will be on the look-out for more youtube...isn't it a great resource to have!
Liz

Rachel Fox said...

Well one of the differences between you and me Jim is that I am big on sound (music and songs in particular)! Music is my favourite artform - especially songs - and I am far more a music nerd than a poetry nerd! My book is called 'More about the song' for lots of reasons.
So...whilst I do like quiet poems that need careful, usually quiet reading (and I've posted quite a lot on this blog) I do also like big noisy ones too. I like to experiment with words and sound - and this poem is trying to make a poem that gets over the excitement of dancing (on one level). You could read it on a page but I think it will work best like this...with a crowd of people..all there imagining different things, remembering different dances and times and people. Maybe you've not been much of a dancer...some of my best memories are of dancing...with friends...in discos and clubs...all over the place. I like solitude but I like communal experiences too.

As for poetry - the quiet intellectual stuff is interesting but I need to be out there flinging myself about too. I like lots of levels! This poem is also about working solo or working/living in a crowd...which on one level is about being the quiet writer at home and being the noisy performer about town...and so it makes sense to read it out in a crowd and see how it goes. I like to try all sorts of things. Maybe I'll read it again another time, maybe I won't...I like to keep performing interesting by doing different things all the time.

You have the patience to sit and write novels...I don't really. I enjoy the performing side of it - as one part of a great big whole. We're all exploring different avenues...

Rachel Fox said...

Dave - I think I've already done that 'random things about yourself' task via Barbara Smith a while back!

And Liz...thanks very much. Maybe I'll get some more taped.

x

Jim Murdoch said...

As I said, it was an observation, not a criticism. I was just struck by how unimportant the words seemed in relation to the sound.

As for music, I don't write much about it but I have far more music than books. When I was flush I would spend £50 every month on music (and most of it used so I could get more for my money) and maybe not buy a single book but I made sure I had my music allowance. My tastes are very eclectic too. Today we've had some Brian Eno, some jazz from the early sixties (a mix) and at the moment I'm listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Colin Will said...

Listening to Kim and Karine this afternoon Rachel. Just great. It's making me feel very positive.

Rachel Fox said...

Jim - I think 'seemed' is a big one there...the words may have seemed unimportant to you (on first listen) but I don't think they are...and that isn't the response I have had to them by and large. You may listen to music but I don't think you involve it in your writing in the way that I do/try to do (or at doesn't seem that way to me anyway...from what I've read of yours so far). Maybe if you do it's in a more cerebral way...I think I get less and less cerebral with every day that passes (and that's another thing this poem is about)! Plus you listen to what might be called purer music than me (apart from ELP - I quite like them). I am a song freak above all - listening to the human voice doing beautiful, often simple things...that's my favourite way to spend any time, any place, anywhere and pretty much always has been. And if you can dance to it...even better.

Plus I imagine (maybe wrongly) that this is not a subject that is close to your heart (flinging yourself about a dancefloor with wild abandon). Maybe I'm wrong...got any videos of you dancing (for Hope, obviously...not me).

And Colin - they are indeed a pair of top lasses. If I could sing as well as either of them I wouldn't be bothering with this poetry nonsense, I can tell you!

x

Rachel Fox said...

p.s. this poem is too new to be on the website yet... for anyone who does want to read it (rather than hear it). I will get the website updated soon.

Jim Murdoch said...

I've read the other responses but I think it's important that you get an honest reaction from me. It's not a negative reaction. I didn't hate it. It was entertaining. But after it was over all that stayed with me was the performance. I'm sitting here just now racking my brain to remember even what it was about. Now, a part of that is my poor memory (and this is me good – six months ago I'd have wandered into the kitchen and forgotten who you were) but I think the main thing is that I was entertained – and I was entertained – by you more than your words.

You are quite right though, I listen far less to vocal music than I used to (mainly because it's harder to write over but I still own loads), and on the whole my tastes are more cerebral but I'll still stick AC/DC on while I'm doing the dishes or some Dixieland Jazz. I fancy some Sex Pistols today actually. But, I'm no dancer – faaaaaar too self-conscious for that. That said I have no problems speaking before an audience just though but don't ask me to perform before one.

None of this is a matter of what's right and what's wrong. We readers/listeners will insist on bringing our own baggage with us.

Rachel Fox said...

All I gave were honest reactions to your honest reaction!I'm not for a minute expecting only 100% positive, 'my god you've changed my life' reactions when I put stuff up here - a list of 'fantastic's makes pretty boring reading as a comments box, I think we might all agree.

However I would say that your mention of baggage is significant (and all the following is a general set of observations... not really to do with your comment on this poem). When I have any kind of criticism/observation about someone's writing I do tend to think very hard about whether it will be of any use to the person (or whether it is just me thinking 'bloody hell I wouldn't do it that way'). I very rarely put a less than positive comment straightaway - I usually leave it a while then come back and see if I still feel the same (and often I don't). If it is someone who writes very differently to me (which is probably most people!) then I really have to believe that my comment is worth giving and that it is not at all to do with turning their writing into something more like mine (or the work of some of my favourite writers). I know not everyone feels this way but this is my way. I am just not very interested in giving out tips to other writers (in fact the whole culture of writing workshops...online or off...and writing courses doesn't really interest me at all...just my personal opinion!). This blogging is the closest I have come to it - generally I just write and live and read and live and write. For me it is a simple business. Sort of. There is so much reading/listening material out there...if I don't like something or find it interesting I just move on to something else.

I give out mainly positive comments about other's writing (but always honest ones, though, because I am the world's worst liar!). I don't do this because I am sucking up to people but just because doing so is a much simpler matter...good feedback is encouraging and, if honest, always a good thing for writer and reader. As I say I think long and hard about anything else. I don't consider myself any kind of expert about writing...I'm not sure I've ever come across such a thing in fact. Writing is such a wide area...there are people who know a lot about certain types of writing but someone who knows about it all? I don't think so.

What you say about your music listening habits reminds me once again why I wish poetry was more like music (in how people see/hear/think about it). You like different music for different moods and activities and times of day. Oh, that poetry could be let alone to do different things at different times, to be different things to different people! Sounds like paradise!

x

swiss said...

well i liked it. and i thought of john cooper clarke too! i like hearing people doing their own work, it gives you an idea of syntax and feel you just can't get otherwise.

unless they're rubbish at it in which case i'm either sympathetic at the nervousness or appalled at the eye-gargling badness of it all.

in which case, get a proxy (or practice even!). i've never understood why people with either so little insight into their own work or such little thought for their audience don't just get someone else who can read to do it for them

plus, if you get someone else to read then it gives other insights into what you're doing

i can't be bothered with poetry readings so much these days but reading poetry? i think that's what it's there for!

Rachel Fox said...

'Eye-gargling badness'..I like the sound of that, Swiss...well, I don't but you know what I mean. And it's true...some people read their poetry so badly that it is almost entertaining. I said almost.

I don't go to heaps of poetry readings - there aren't that many locally for a start - but when I do go to something I try to choose very carefully. I've been going to StAnza every year since we moved to Scotland and I get better at choosing events that I might be able to bear and some that I might even enjoy (and if there's some good music on the bill too - even better!). Even without it though I think a really good poetry reading can be an amazing event. Poems can be brought to life in a different way, the poet can connect with listeners and can make them understand nuances that they might have missed on the page and can add other details too. I enjoyed and rated Hugh McMillan's poems in their books but his reading last week helped me join them up into more of a body of work. Literally hearing him read them helped me place them better in my head...everything contributed - the accent, the throwaway asides, the tone of voice on different words (didn't I say something about 'all in the tone' recently?). Yes poems don't always need to be heard (I've never seen or heard Larkin read...not more than a poem I don't think... but I still hear his voice) but that's not to say it's not worth trying to get them heard too. Plus sometimes it's good to get out of the house, away from the TV and out to listen to people's real voices...to add your own voice to the mix.

I'm not, as I said, a poetry nerd (I saw that term on another blog recently) so I don't go to poetry event after poetry event. But then I don't go out that much full stop these days!

Glad you liked the poem anyway, Swiss. I think maybe you've done some dancing in your time.

shug said...

Interesting what you said about criticism. people ask me what I think of their work and it's awfully difficult saying anything apart from 'if I'd written this I would do this, that and the other' but the pont is I didn't write it, did I?

Apart from very general tips I tend to stay away from it, my advice is too intrusive.

Rachel Fox said...

I think it's partly that some people just like giving advice (whatever the subject) and some are less interested. In the rest of life (away from writing) some people love to advise about everything (work, relationships, family...) but the ones who give advice freely are not necessarily the ones who have the best tips to offer! Life is a bitch in so many ways.

For example I would probably like your advice/opinions in writing matters, Hugh, but you're not the kind to offer it much (as you say). I'll get you drunk one day, force it out of you and then I'll probably hate you forever more!

When it comes to other writers in general I like to see how other people write and why they do it and (because I'm interested in life and people more than literary theory) I do like to think about what in their lives comes out in their writing (and what does not). It's one of the joys of not being an academic and working in literature, as it were. I can just think about writing in the way that I want to...plus anyone saying 'you can't do that' has always been the signal for me to plough on through and do exactly whatever it is they are warning against!

shug said...

If you really want my advice (for what it's worth) I'd be glad to give it. Your work's got an energy and need to be accessible that appeals to me.


That doesn't mean you can't get me drunk, by the way

swiss said...

i'm with shug i think. i think beyond questions of why'd you do that? etc there's not much to be said of value. unless of course you're prepared to put in a bit of effort. and, not to split hairs, but advice is not criticism.

as for literary theory if you can get past its upitselfness (yes i know it's not a word and if i was using it in a literary theory context it'd probably be in german) it's actually quite entertaining in a very geeky way. much like poetry!

oh yes and the dancing - like a brain damaged lab monkey!

The Solitary Walker said...

Good God, it's taken me ages just to read thru' these comments!

For what it's worth, I really did like the 'performance' of the poem - you brought it right to the audience and made them take note. And this takes guts.

It reminded me of Lemn Sissay - who gave a reading close-by in Lincoln a year or two ago. Though not quite as edgy/uncomfortable as he can make you feel!

Rachel Fox said...

We all find different things entertaining...and literary theory doesn't do it for me! It makes my brain start malfunctioning!

As for geeks...as I say, the more poetry blogs I read the more I realise that I am not a poetry geek at all. I love to write...and I think about it pretty much all the time but I think about subjects, happenings, feelings, people...not other writers/poets so much (a bit... but not all the time). I have a few writers that I really, really like and their work floats around in my head but I am not a poetry book junkie like some. Just now I'm reading that book about trees that I think you recommended, Swiss. It is treemendous...and I've only read about 10 pages.

As for music junkiedom though...that is something I'll never give up. From sitting listening to my sister's old Beatles records when I was...maybe 5...there's been no looking back. 'Penny Lane', 'Eleanor Rigby', 'Help'...I haven't listened to those much since then but every now and then I find myself just singing one (at a bus stop or something). It happened the other day...'Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes...' Marvellous.

x

Rachel Fox said...

That last comment was a reply to Swiss...the other one snuck in before mine!

SW - I love Lemn Sissay! I saw him read back in Leeds (in about 1990) and the power of his words and whole performance has stayed with me right through the years. His blog is interesting too - link on my blog page. He has energy, a passion for words and ideas, empathy, understanding...and he does his own thing...in that middle ground between slams/performance poetry and literary poetry/national poetry competitions etc. In fact he is one of the people who has kept me going in this odd middle way on the days when I've thought 'what's the point, I'm neither this nor that, nobody cares!' I thanked him in my book...not that he helped me with it in practical terms...I just thanked him for being out there in a way, for being his own man...

x

The Solitary Walker said...

Will check out your link.

The power of Sissay's performance has stayed with me too - far longer than some other rap/performance poets/artists...

He engaged the audience in a very direct and edgy way, asking questions in-between the poems, riffing aound difficult questions of race, prejudice etc etc which really did make you think. He was endearing ultimately - and met and shook every member of the audience by the hand on leaving.

Rachel Fox said...

I interviewed him too...back when I was a sort-of journalist...and he is exactly what he seems, if you know what I mean. I know not everyone would think that was a good thing...but I really do, especially when it comes to Lemn. In the beginning of 'The Secret Life of Trees' that I've just started reading it quotes Einstein 'I never stopped thinking like a child' and Lemn is a bit Einstein I think (not that everyone will see it!). He won't win the poetry competitions...but my goodness he might get the hearts and minds!
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Einstein: 'Imagination is richer than knowledge!'

Art Durkee said...

I played for twelve years in a band that consisted of four core musicians, with guest musicians brought in, and two poets. The band's purpose was to play spontaneous improvised music in all styles to accompany poetry performance. We became almost telepathic in our shorthand, over time, and could turn on a dime, stylistically and musically.

Key word: poetry performance.

I have become convinced that a great poem works as well performed as it does on the page. In fact, I have become convinced that to be a great poem, the poem must work well both read silently and read aloud (performed).

Most poets kill their poems when they read them. Rachel, your reading/performance enhances your poems; I realize that your focus is on music, sound, etc., and I think you read well. It was nice to hear your voice. My only caution to you is to always stay aware of the reading/reading balance, visual/aural balance. I think you already know that, and I think most of the poems I've read of yours stay on point. So please be clear that the following is not necessarily directed at you, but is a general comment or three.

One of my biggest criticisms of most "performance poetry," or "spoken word" poetry as some call it, especially 97 percent of Slam poetry, is that ii is designed specifically to work as a performance piece, and often lies dull and lifeless on the page. It might be great and wonderful when performed aloud; but most of the texts in, say, that anthology from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, are unreadable as poems on the page. They don't hold interest, and they're usually rife with clichés one can get away in songwriting and performance, but really stand out on the page.

In our band, our two poets were very different writers, and very different readers, but they were both compelling and exciting and enlivening in their way, to listen to. They read in completely different ways, and wrote very different kinds of poetry, but the point is that their poems work well when read silently to oneself AND when performed, or just read aloud. Put this in a musical context, and it enhances the experience.

(And I can prove it. If you go to my Music page on my website, and scroll down to Dangerous Odds, there are several MP3s there for your listening pleasure.)

So, I generally like what you did here, although it's not what I would have done (and you've already discussed why that's both good and doesn't matter, so I won't repeat any of that), and I appreciate your sharing it with us. These are just thoughts triggered by the overall issue and context.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, Art. I certainly try to write poems that work both on the page and in the air (if you like). Both matter to me, that's for sure, and I agree with you that great poems (or at least most of them) do work well when both read and heard. I would never call myself a 'performance poet'.

This was my first go at this particular poem in public and having watched the clip once or twice I can hear myself rushing it a bit in places! A bit less quickstepping and a bit more waltzing required here and there!

Singing Bear said...

This is so great. Congratulations. I used to love those Liver Birds...especially the early ones with Polly James.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks SB. Yes, I loved that show too...I was far too young to understand a lot of it but I loved it!