So with poems in case, clothes pressed and on, after a hot steamy bath, shaved, cologned, polished and pressed I walk down hill to The Granary Cafe, order myself a Latte and tall water and sit at the table outside. “Mummy mummy Granny’s Cafe” an excited child says to her mother as they speed past “look look Granny’s Cafe”. There’s an innocently irritated expression on her mothers untidying face.This is a literary festival she scowls. “It’s the granary cafe” she says “GRA-NA-RY”.
I chuckle to myself, the latte poised in my hand as they pass. This one hour before the reading is special. It is the same before the workshop. It is where I, in respect of the audience, in respect of myself and in respect of the work, I commune. It is here that the work talks back to me. Where the work and I enter dialogue. Brian Patten confirms this relationship best when last night he said “please don’t clap the love poems, they get jealous of each other”. The audience laugh with this jape but in actual fact it indicates a deeper relationship with his work. This hour is neither the beginning or end of the preparation process but it is where the worlwind is coaxed into the bottle
My papers are arranged carefully upon the small table. Storm clouds are gathering and the bottle is open. One of the things I do is go through each book writing the titles of the pems I may read. And then I go through my manuscript (now the proofs) and decide which of those poems I shall read and more importantly, why? I sense a shadow move around the table. A man with a sot of fishermans hat drawn over his forehead “Anyone sitting here” . I could fel the question hanging and there is no rational reason why I should say anything lse other than “not at all, please, it’s all yours” . He sits. If there was a giant hand the size of a jumbo jet that came diving out of the sky with a wooden sign between its fingers saying “he is realy concentrating and working here” it couldn’t have been more obvious.
“May I have a cigarette” he says. Now this is interesting. I have three left and offer him one. Just as he begins another sentence I stop him “I’m sorry” I say “I realy have to concentrate on this”. There’s a pause, but there is no way this Ninja is giving up. Then it comes “i’m a writer” he whispers. “realy” I lift and nod my head trying to meet his evasive eyes with my glaring ones. “great, that’s great”.
“But I m not interested in fame he says I used to be famous, but it’s not for me. It’s shallow.” Now my internal defences are battered because of this guys inverate energy sucking away at my spirit. “All the papers wanted me” he says and then there is a long pause where I immediately dive into my disappearing set list “ I’m writing a book on writers anecdotes” he says in a desperate attempt that internally infuriates me beyond words. All i think is “I am not telling you a f**king thing”. By now steam is spurting from my ears and the sound of a passing train is racing in circles through my head. “they your
books” he says “ can I have one”.
At last I give a way a little of my frustration and without explanation say “no. No you can’t”.
There’s another long silence where I am staring at my papers feeling him staring at me. I looka t him staring at me. He continues staring. I will not blink. He will not blink. How did this get so adversarial. I just want to say “please please leave me the f@@@ alone”. But ofcourse I don’t. Finally leaving half my latte having lost the most crucial thirty minutes, shake his hand and leave. In fifteen minutes I will be on stage. I catch the festival transport and get stuck in a traffic jam! A freakin traffic jam! Great. Just freakin Great! I get out of the transport and walk the country lane that leads to the field and towards the
venue where an n audience of about 170 is filing in. I have five minutes.
Lisa Dwan is there to meet me and in five minutes we have the most enlightening comfortable conversation above any at hay. I could have not done the reading and talked to her alone. She walks onto the stage, introduces me to the audience and then I am on. The craic is good and the audience is warm and intelligent and willing to go with
me. The reading is going really well, there is laughter and tears. Pins can be heard dropping when I read certain poems and pennies drop when I read others – pins and pennies.
But then the mischevious part of me wants to tell the story of the man at the granny cafe. And so I do. I launch into the story and it all comes out. There is no holding back, just the hilarious story of my lack of protestation and mental turmoil. It could sound arrogant of me but fortunately the audience is intelligent enough to undertand, pity and at the same time bely laugh at the ridiculous situation I found myself in. I think people also felt included in that i was telling them a story so fresh and so real and so original to all of us! After a ten minute riff on this aggressive and selfish person I read the last poem. The reading ends on the poem The Queens Speech and the applause is heart felt. It was a full meal of an event.
I’m imidiately whisked off down the warren of gangplanks to the green room, but then there is a crowd waiting for me at The bookshop. First I have a cigarette. As I make my way to The Bokshp to sign there’s a man sat in the cafe who looks incredibly like… it was him, hat drawn, now sinisterly over his forehead head barely above his beady eyes
watches me. With a growl he says “Lemn” I turn. It is him. The man from the granary cafe. “I was there” he says and as if to underline my utter shock he says it again speling
out each word “I. WAS. THERE. LEMN.”. He was sat in the audience, while I recounted
that entire story!