Friday, January 30, 2009

Paula Meehan Reading

I attended the poetry reading by Paula Meehan in Blanchardstown Library last evening. Well attended, around sixty there, a very appreciative attentive audience. I am not very familiar with Paula's work but was very impressed with the reading. She is obviously an excellent performer and draws the audience with her. She read some of her early works and also some from her
forthcoming volume Painting Rain which is due out in March. She read one of her early poems, Buying Winkles, which is on the Leaving Certificate syllabus. There is a commentary of it here in

A more recent poem, Death of a Field, went down very well. I especially liked the list

The end of dandelion is the start of Flash
The end of dock is the start of Pledge

The end of teazel is the start of Ariel
. . .

You can read the full poem here.

The event was more like "An evening with Paula Meehan" than a poetry reading. She "read" some of the early poems by heart which was impressive. She introduced each poem and at the end answered a wide range of questions which dealt with the important issues like her attitude to free verse as against formal structures, the poetic "I", her attitude to her early poetry.

She had this lovely phrase about using given poetic forms - "It makes you say something that you didn't know you were going to say".

Our Meath/Cavan LitLab group is reading poetry and prose as part of the Cavan Caomhnú Festival the weekend after next so we have been discussing the mechanics of a reading - the need for introductions but not explanations, the extent to which it should be a
performance not a dull reading, the need to feel confident and proud about our work. Paula's reading was an excellent example by a skilled reader. I had decided to say very little by way of introduction to my own two or three poems but after listening to Paula I wonder.

There is an interview with Paula Meehan here.


Paddy Smith said...

A poet changing his mind and seeing that the introduction to his poetry is actually part of the overall reading performance? What next? A black man as president of the US of A?

Emerging Writer said...

I really believe that an audience gets more out of a reading if each poem is introduced. The listener knows what to listen for and can contextualise it. Otherwise, why do to a reading when you can read the poem on its own. Howver, a cardinal rule, the introduction must be shorter than the actual poem!