Thursday, 10 December 2009

Speak Fear

Don't worry that I haven't said too much about the Human Rights Celebration Gig at Newcastle Library on Saturday (it's at 3pm, by the way, if anyone wants to come). Work is happening on it, a few things have changed, even since the Baynham Test post the other day, and I'm now a lot more confident that It'll go better than originally planned. One of the things that excites me about this thing is that there's very little performing involved in it. I will have a video of one piece on before I perform, I will do one number myself, then I have a little presentation to give (with accompanying Powerpoint slides - oh yes!) explaining the point of the thing, and then - it's over to the audience. It's their gig, not mine. They'll make it or break it, and I hope to god they make it, because I want to give whoever turns up a chance to speak their fears, to feel brave, even for a moment, in the hope that that bravery might be something they then carry with them elsewhere in their lives.

And part of that is because, at this point in my life, I'm absolutely goddam terrified. And the thing that I'm terrified of is my next gig. I don't know when that is yet, and in a way part of me doesn't want to know, and part of me wants to delay it indefinitely for exactly that reason. Go on hiatus. Leave the scene.

Those of you who read this blog and are aware of my previous work will have observed that the stuff I've been posting on here recently has taken a slightly different turn. I'm not playing to the gallery anymore; I'm not doing funny poems about Meat Loaf and rhyme-heavy freestyle-derived numbers that show off my performance chops. I'm trying to be real. I'm trying to write something true about myself and the way I see the world. Something that doesn't depend on audience approval, or indeed the provocation of audience disapproval: something I can stand by and say this is me, this is how I see it and let the chips fall where they may. This is the whole reason I pulled the plug on publishing All Haste is from the Devil back in July, and, as much as that decision hurt a lot of good people and made me look like a ridiculous primadonna, I'm more certain than ever that it was the right one, because forcing myself to be real, to get back to a writing process that's about describing what I experience in the most honest way I can, has resulted in poems that I can be proud of. You've seen some of them on this blog. But here's the thing: you haven't seen the half of it.

There are things I've written recently, good, well-crafted poems I've spent a lot of time on, which ripped out my heart and stamped it to a smear. Poems the writing of which literally left me in a crying heap on the floor of my room. And I am afraid to read these poems in public, afraid to submit them for publication, because as good as they are (and I believe them to be among the best I've ever written), I know that to put these things out there will change my world in ways I'm not prepared for. I'll go further: I'm afraid that putting these things out there could break me, and that if they do, there's nothing that'll put me back together.

And I'm afraid most of all because - and here, really, is the thing - they want to be read. They want to be published. The next time I send work out for publication, these poems will be among it. The next time I perform, these poems will be the stuff I read.

And that's what scares me. That's what wakes me in the middle of the night, what makes me stop and sit back on my haunches on an afternoon walk, what makes me think a million times a day about announcing that Saturday's gig will be my last one. Because I don't know if I can face the gig after that.

Because: after I invite Saturday's audience to find the strength to speak their fears, I have to find the strength to speak my own.

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