Monday, 23 February 2009


This Sunday 1st March I will be appearing as part of the Out of the Woods night at the Woodlands Hotel, Barnhill, Dundee (show starts 8pm). It's a music night primarily but the stupendous Pauline Hynd who runs the event has asked me to be the guest compere so there I will be...introducing the performers and reading a poem here and there and even singing a song or two with my musical friend Verona.

The guests on Sunday are Scottish singer/songwriters Lorna Brooks, Gill Stewart East and the Dundee Rep Women Singers as well as Pauline herself (who was so great back at Edinburgh's Forest Café in November last year). Every year around this time (what with International Women's Day and all) Pauline puts on an all women bill. It's a lot of fun.

I have been on the stage there twice before – once to sing with Verona at a new songwriters showcase and once, about this time last year, to do a full half hour set of songs and poems. It's a big venue (much bigger than your average poetry night would fill!) and you're up on a proper stage and everything. So far it has been a great place for me/us to do... whatever our thing is so let's hope that tradition continues. I've been sorting through poems to try there this time and I may well read this one that had an airing at Forest in November too:

Although this time I might not read a really long, fast poem beforehand and then forget to take a drink (if you listen closely to the clip you can hear me gulping as my mouth dries out completely!). The other day I got a message from somebody (whose opinion I respect – he's done a lot of writing himself one way or another) saying that they thought 'Not tonight, Radiohead' was the best poem in my book and that really I should have used its title for the book's title too. I don't know about best it is for people who prefer to read with eyes rather than ears:

Not tonight, Radiohead

Please, my love, perhaps not Radiohead tonight
Right on the pulse of our lives it may be
But it's dark, so dark, and I need to feel light

I work all day to keep up the fight
To smile in the face of that creep misery
So please, my love, perhaps not Radiohead tonight

Now I know that light can be taken for trite
(Or something much worse which also rhymes tight)
But sight can play tricks and you might never see
How in darkest of dark, you can so need light

And we may love truth with all our might
But at times less pain can set us free
So please, my love, perhaps not Radiohead tonight

Instead joyous sounds, so hot they ignite
Disco or banjo or sweet harmony
When it gets this dark, it's not wrong to need light

I don't want a fake promise, it'll be alright
I'm not stupid, you know, just a little weary
So please, my love, perhaps not Radiohead tonight
In the dark, cruel dark, give me light, warm light

RF 2007

I know some of you just don't like villanelles much but I do (Wendy Cope has some great ones) but what I most like about this poem is how true it is. This is absolutely how I feel quite a bit of the time (it happened just last week in fact). It's like I get so precariously close to an edge that just a gloomy sound can push me to a point that....I don't want to get to. I start worrying about inherited mental illness and hormone imbalances and all my coping strategies start wobbling. It's very draining and tedious and I would quite like it if it didn't happen at all. But it does.

I think one reason I have not highlighted this poem too much is that I know it is one that could be easily misinterpreted (it's happened already). Some people take it that I don't like Radiohead and that's really not the case...I quite like their sound and some of their songs and the last thing I want on my gravestone is 'that woman who didn't like Radiohead, you know the one'. That would be silly...but silly things do happen.

Speaking of songs, Verona and I have been practising a couple of ours for Sunday (probably 'School gates, no mates', maybe 'The Wandering Song', Verona might sing a solo too). We haven't performed songs to an audience for a few months (for a reason I can't really go into here) but it does mean it is just like starting all over again in some ways. Will we remember the words? Will Verona's hands shake so much she can't play the guitar? Will we just explode with manic energy (we are both a bit manic at times...)? At least this week we are on early so we can sing and then relax (the talking and poems doesn't worry me so's just talking – how hard can that be!). Anyone who can make it to Dundee this Sunday...we'll see you there! I'll be the one trying not to talk too fast...

p.s. On a completely unrelated note I did a little translation of a poem (Spanish to English) for Swiss and it is up on Roxana's blog just now alongside Swiss' more creative version of the same poem. It was a bit of a quick job (mine) and...well...I could make loads of excuses about how long it is since I used any Spanish but what's the point...go and have a look if you're interested in such things. I don't read much poetry in translation...though I did take Don Paterson's 'The Eyes' out of the library the other day (which is Paterson taking poems by Spanish poet Antonio Machado and sort of translating, sort of creating something new). Maybe I'll write something about 'The Eyes' some time soon. Maybe not...



The Weaver of Grass said...

Good luck with your showtime night.

Anonymous said...

I always liked this one.

Her indoors (well, she's at work and I'm indoors but whatever) has a similar thing with angry punk rock / techno music. Old habits die hard.

Good luck with the gig!


Rachel Fox said...

Thanks you two.

I may end up not reading the Radiohead poem this time...still not sure. If I'm reading in between musicians I have to pick what I read quite carefully for each slot!

As for you know, Smithy, never my favourite. Techno I did listen to sometimes, obviously, but mostly under several influences. Usually the techno I liked was the stuff that was only just in that box...


Unknown said...

Hooray - you'll be fab!

Susan at Stony River said...

This sounds like a splendid night out even before it happens: good luck with everything and I hope it's a lot of fun!

Loved the poem too.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks to you two too.

Kat Mortensen said...

I do so envy you these events.

I think it's a fine poem. The darkness and the light- far too much of the former lately. I've often said such things to my husband when he wants to play something heavy or morbid. Some songs just require a glass of red, don't you think?


Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Kat. This one sprang from one afternoon in a supermarket carpark. Mark had downloaded that new Radiohead album (something about Rainbows) and we were listening to it in the car. He went in to get something and I just sat there listening to it along with the sound of my mind just frying. I switched it off and put on some Martin Simpson instead. A few bars of healthy banjo music and I felt better...a sentence I never thought I'd write (when I was younger a bit more carefree...).

It's just about learning to look after yourself a bit I suppose - listening to your body and your brain and knowing when it's time for this and when it's time for that. And when it's time for nothing at all.


hope said...

You'll do great! I really think this worry thing is genetic and women can't have it removed. :)

Would be nice if those of us who can't afford air fare could be able to see a bit...even after the fact.

Have fun! Yes, you're allowed.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hope the show goes well! I like the poem and can understand exactly where it comes from, there are bands like that for me too, including indeed Radiohead.

Marion McCready said...

All the best for Sunday, and you know I really like that poem!

Rachel Fox said...

All these good can we not do well?
And do you know what I'm listening to with the dishes this evening? Radiohead of course! Feeling better today...what can I say...Also I'm listening to older stuff not the 'In Rainbows'.

Colin Will said...

Good luck with the gig. Pauline is a stunningly good performer/ singer/ songwriter.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, Colin, just don't mention the villanelle...
Maybe I'll put out a whole book of them! Dedicate it to you!

The Solitary Walker said...

I like this poem very much. Those poetic forms, like the villanelle, can be very productive strictures sometimes, can't they?

Best of luch on Sunday. I'm sure it will be GREAT.

Colin Will said...

I did a 'Beginning Poetry' workshop on Saturday; introduced folk to couplets, tercets, quatrains, ballads, sonnets and free verse, but I didn't mention the 'v' word. Wrote a poem myself in rhyming hexametric quatrains.

Anonymous said...

I love a good villanelle - and I'm entirely with you re Radiohead tonight! Good to see you as well as hear.

Liz said...

Hey Rachel, 'go-get-em''ll be brillaint...and thumbs-up for the radiohead poem.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks people! I'm fighting off a cold too I think...that'll be nice for the singing!

swiss said...

of couse i'm working but if i can skip away early we'll maybe try and make it

Rachel Fox said...

Well, if you do come and say hello! I will be manic-me but that's ok. You'll have seen worse at work.

swiss said...

so long as you're not throwing body fluids at me i;m sure i'll be fine ; )

Kat Mortensen said...

Oh good! I haven't missed the date of your appearance. It's this Sunday. Right! I'll be thinking of you and sending positive vibes from this side of the Atlantic.


Rachel Fox said...

Thanks very much Kat! All good vibes appreciated...