On Tuesday I had the terrifying privilege of doing a public reading of my poetry for the first time ever.*
The fear started when I went in the building and was told the venue was on the 8th floor. Did I mention I am scared of heights? And lifts. So - stairs. No problem - only THE STAIRS WERE SEE THROUGH. Can I repeat that? THE STAIRS WERE fucking SEE THROUGH and Escher-style, extending over acres of empty space.
Dear architects. If someone is taking the stairs up high it is often because they suffer from vertiginous fears and generally neurotic tendencies that mean they can't take lifts. Especially see through lifts. Whoever designed this building, you basically created my own personal worst nightmare. That's amazing! How did you know?
(I have checked with boyf, who is an architect, and he has confirmed that when designing buildings like this very little - in fact practically none - thought is given to those with over-sensitive phobic glands.)
Anyway, I made it up the stairs - after stopping for a
I'm taking the piss only slightly. I reallly am that fucking chicken. In fact, more so.
I'd like to take a moment to thank the stranger behind me who leaned forward to tell me I looked 'really nervous'. Thanks.
Anyway, through the preamble and a first, lovely introductory reading, I mostly sat and tried not to shake. I did a lot of arguing with myself about running away and forbidding self to do so. I thought about the reasons I could give myself for leaving that wouldn't make me hate myself. There weren't any. I tried not to dwell on the silent screamy voice that was saying 'you're an agoraphobe, you can barely leave the house what the fuck are you doing here?' - because that voice is a bit out of date. These days, I am no longer an official housebound agoraphobe, which is thankfuckery wonderful, but does remove the excuse and expose just common or garden cowardice in a rather unpleasant light.
A kerfuffle at the back of the hall interrupted my tortuous imaginary struggles - it turned out to be a teary-eyed babe clutching ginger stuffed cat, and boyf, looking grim. Luckily babe wasn't looking for boob, but a hug, so shoogled in and sat and I buried my face his hair for a bit. I had vague qualms about being the freaky one with the screamy babe, but he didn't so I swallowed those qualms and got back to the ones about getting up in front of people and reading. It's hard when an unexpected diversionary terror stops you from concentrating on the main terror of the evening.
It's funny, too, how sometimes the smallest things give you courage. I only got through my driving test by staring at the cat hair on my jumper that reminded me of Petra.
Then they started with the poems. I was called up first. And actually relieved, because ho-ho, how sodslaw knewit typical, and also much longer sitting there waiting to do it and I would have started taking the chairs apart in order to self harm.
Then I went and read. It was okay. I walked up like a human being and didn't fall over. I had only mild out of body experience. I felt the cold metal of the podium and I hid a bit behind the microphone, and I managed (I think) not to go too fast. Because you're not allowed to say you're nervous and must look professional, I didn't make any jokes about shitting myself, but I did put my hand on my heart like to still it which boyf said afterwards was as bad.
So I blew the professionalism. Plus ca change.
I did two poems. Halfway through the second I realised it was far too long (a page), so sorry to the audience for that.
But fuck it, I did it. And although you're not supposed to say or feel proud of yourself, I think sometimes nobody else can know quite how much it takes one to do these things that terrify us, so I am bloody well going to. I also got to listen to some wonderful poems and meet some other poets, which was great.
I'm also interested that the night after I woke up from horrible nightmares about territory and accents. I realised that I have a lot of fears to do with being a foreigner, an incomer, to do with the hostility I experienced in my childhood. I realised that I have never felt at home in Scotland, but that I have lived here so long and got so used to being an outsider I never shall feel at home anywhere. I realised something about the audience, how it fascinates and terrifies me, and how we create our own head-audience from fears and ghosts.
*I am going to work on some (short) poems on fear and Otherness now.