Posted: 24 May 2015 04:12 AM PDT
Poems disappearing in words –
nothing there but voices.
Excerpts from other people's lives –
empty as a found photograph.
25 June 1980
I went to my first poetry reading on 25th June 1980. I would not go to another one for thirty-one years give or take just over a week. I had been invited which was the only reason I went. An editor, unbeknownst to me (I suspect Carl MacDougall since he gets a namecheck on the commemorative booklet), had submitted some of my poems to a competition. I didn't win but my poem 'The Medical Student' (#513) got an honourable mention as they say. There was to be a prize giving ceremony at The Third Eye Centre in Glasgow which is now the Centre for Contemporary Arts. I went there when my friend Marion McCready was publishing her first book on 17th June 2011. That would be my second poetry reading then.
In 1980 I knew no other poets. I corresponded for a while with a guy in Bristol who was a big fan of Ginsberg but the correspondence dried up after a few weeks. He hated that I numbered my poems. I hated that he thought he was Ginsberg. I never wrote to another poet until I went online in the mid-nineties.
I hated that 1980 poetry reading with a vengeance. I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me. The poets who were invited to read were, as far as I was concerned, all full of themselves (not that I was lacking an ego back then) but I couldn't relate to any of the readers. I remember thinking that this was exactly the kind of thing that would put someone off poetry. It felt pretentious and elitist. I didn't hang around afterwards. I think I wrote the poem on the bus home.
What is interesting is that I find myself drawing on yet another old poem in the novel I'm editing:
Ginsberg never read in the Third Eye Centre which opened its doors in 1974 but he did read at Scottish Arts Council building on Blythswood Square (where my poem 'Heat' (#530) was set) on the 10th August 1973 and the CCA has posted a grainy video here and here. The full Third Eye Centre archive can be found here.
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