Thursday’s reading at St Mungo’s Mirrorball with Rob A Mackenzie and performance poet Robin Cairns was a good night. As usual, Mr Mackenzie has got in ahead of me and blogged about it already. As he says, it was a varied evening but the audience was happy to switch mood and style along with each reader. It was a decent-sized crowd too.
Rob was up first (you can find his set list at his post), reading from The Opposite of Cabbage for the first time. For literary poets like Rob and me, I think there’s a greater degree of confidence that comes with holding your book in your hand in front of an audience. Rob and I have seen each other’s books in varying states of manuscript, but the authority of the printed and bound article allows us to sit back and enjoy the poems. It gives them a stamp of finality that’s obviously lacking in a draft. That effect holds for the live reading, I think. Seeing how well the audience reacted to Rob’s work simply served to reinforce its wit, sophistication, intelligence and passion; its mix of irony, cynicism and compassion; it’s freshness and quality.
Robin Cairns, as is often the case with performance poets, performed all his work from memory. It’s an impressive skill, especially given that we’re not talking about short lyrics here. He’s a highly confident performer and certainly gets the audience laughing. For me, though, his best piece was a serious one: an accomplished ballad exploring how music breaks down barriers between individuals. Robin was launching his first pamphlet.
I came last, setting a different tone for the end of the evening with The Ambulance Box. Here’s what I read:
- “The Ambulance Box”
- “To Bake the Bread”
- “The Meisure o a Nation”
- “The Invention of Zero”
- “45 Minutes”
- “Notes to Self”
After the gig, Rob and I wound up in the CCA Bar for a pint with one of my oldest mates and his friend the visual/minimalist poet Stephen Nelson, whom I’d met previously at the Mitchell Library. A fine end to a really good night.