Poetry Reading Monomaniacs

I had a fun night reading as guest poet at poet Angela France's Buzzwords series, in Cheltenham last night - it's a tight-knit group of serious, local poets, who gather for workshops, open mics, and guest readings, every month, back of a pub. The sound system is professional, and the listening mostly very attentive. The poets presented a strong field during the open mic. They also buy books, a good sign. But, what is it with poetry events? I know it's not just me.

After a long (40 minute) reading (I was asked to do that much), which had gone over well an "actor" in the room sidled up, fixed me with that gleam I know so well, and began to tell me how to "improve my reading for next time" - offering some unasked-for tips. Never mind that it was now 10 pm, I was tired, and looking forward to the justly-deserved after-reading pint.

Poets, it seems, are afflicted with such amateur critics, because, I suspect, few who attend such events fathom the effort, energy, and skill, that goes into planning a serious, engaged, longer set (choice of poems, themes, tempo, inter-poem banter, or not, etc.). To the uninitiated, or the plain egoistic, poetry readings are simply an excuse to make another St. Anthony pin-cushion out of the visiting guest poets.

Should poets create some form of Etiquette? Like - if you want to say I was a bad reader - don't. Or not, please, 30 seconds after stepping down from the stage, tired.

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