Over forty years ago, I was approached by the Lincolnshire and Humberside Arts Association, who asked me if I’d like to read my poems at a little village hall in a neighbouring hamlet about a mile or two from the farm I ran with my brother.
Although I’d had my first poetry book out, I was young and I’d never spoken in public – you might say I was green (hence the title of my collection, Lincoln Green). Anyway, I clearly remember writing a quick note say ‘Yes, please’ and putting it in the little red post box on the lane, before I had chance to get nervous and change my mind.
On the night, the village hall was packed… and my voice came out a little shaky, but I found the effect of delivering my poems onto the silence between me and people listening electrifying. I shared the stage with a folk band called Silver Birch, who became firm friends. The photographer, John Walls, who took this lovely portrait of me there, became a close friend of mine, too. I’d found my way into a world beyond the farm gate… and stepped into the captivating and friendly land of spoken word!
I’m just glad I got that letter in the post before I had chance to think too much about it. I can’t replicate the quiver I had in my voice way back then, but I’ve recorded one of the poems from Lincoln Green to give you a taste of the occasion.
Shifting gear and speeding all the way forwards to 2020, just before lockdown came into force, I journeyed up to Trowbridge, to compete at The Hip Yak Poetry Slam, run by the amazing poet, Liv Torc. Here’s a picture of me there, to compare with my shepherdess self, way back when.
By now, I’ve many poems, which I hope work fairly well as performance pieces as well as on the page. I know a lot of them by heart. Slam offers me a much bigger audience and I love the buzz of that. It has to be said, slam is one type of spoken word event, which replicates a good deal of the nervous energy of that evening when I first took my poems out on the road. I learn a lot about my poems by delivering them live and seeing how they’re received by different crowds.
I’ve been lucky enough to read in all kinds of settings – from within the hush of a city library studio to the hubbub of a music festival.