Poetry Reading

I’d passed it, time after time –
In the pursuit of knowledge –
The notice on the library stairwell wall:
‘Poetry to be fully enjoyed
Must be read aloud.
Visit the AV centre soon.’

I never did.

I remembered the disappointment of hearing
Eliot reading Eliot to camera.
The Wasteland had never
Sounded like that to me.

I remembered from my student days
An evening in the Meeting House
With a ‘Liverpool poet’.
His massive display of vulnerability
Turned us away in our embarrassment.

And then this chance to see and hear the man
Behind the reputation.
A well-made man in
A checked shirt, well filled out;
Corduroy trousers held up with a leather belt,
Pulled tight, but not in its loops,
As if to say, I am my father’s son;
These are my roots.

And then the poems.

We were no ‘poetic’ audience,
Pilgrims to an Irish summer school.
We listened attentively, applauded politely,
Poem on poem. Until

Teacherly, reassuringly,
His smiling eyes over his half-rimmed glasses,
He let his book fall to his lap.
‘A poetry reading is a peculiar thing,’ he mused.
‘If you find two poems memorable,
Well, that’s about par for the course,
One is by no means uncommon,
While three must be accounted a good evening.
One to be remembered’.

It was good advice.