Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Speak Up

Some time early last year a friendly acquaintance offered me a short musical set at a gig she was organising. Lacking in confidence and new material, I hesitated in getting back to her and didn't end up playing. Over the last little while I've seen her brand as a rapper expand monumentally and I imagine it's a matter of a very short period of time before you start to see her name in the mainstream of NZ music. Naturally, I've been kicking myself for a while, although I feel a sense of pride at how well she is doing for herself.

In July of last year, I received a message from a poetry friend asking if I was keen on a paid half hour poetry set as part of an event he was organising. Never one to repeat mistakes several times over I replied "Fuck yeah!" or something to that effect.

The event was called Speak Up, designed to be a new monthly poetry event where poets could open mic their work in a safe and friendly environment. Presumably this was to address the overwhelming numbers that Poetry in Motion (an existing monthly event that hosts open mic's and slams throughout the year in Wellington) was starting to see at their events.

I'd come away from poetry shows with a bit of cash in hand before from winning/ placing in slams but this was the first feature length set I'd been offered and the first pre-arranged paid gig I'd been asked to do. I decided to write mostly new material for it and spent the weeks leading up to the big night wonderfully excited, albeit anxious as all hell.

Closer to the day I had the unexpected honour of several of my family members (mostly out-of-town based) saying that they were coming down especially for it. I'd designed my set material around a theme of "shit that happened to me in high school" with poems grouped across topics questioning origin, morality, drug use, alcoholism and sexuality so I was a little worried about what my grandparents might think of it all.

For all my stressing, I decided ultimately not to censor any of my poems and to just go for it as best I could. There was not a comfortable moment on stage for me but I think that's true of any new experience in the realm of live performance. I had similar feelings about my first season slamming even with making it to regionals that year. Nowadays slamming in front of a room full of people comes with the normal nerves but mostly with a sense of fun and camaraderie between poets.

The gig went well. My family loved it. I loved the experience. The organisers seemed happy with their choice of me as a feature performer. At the moment I'm playing with the idea of re-working some of the material from the set into a full-length poetry show for the Wellington Fringe festival the next time I'm in town for one. When I got off stage and all the thank - you's were said to everyone who came along (who are all of my favourites) I felt really good about it all which is a nice place to be as an artist (a state of being that is so often accompanied by crippling self doubt).

Speak Up didn't end up continuing as a monthly event for whatever reason which is a bit of a shame but I am beyond stoked that I was asked to feature on the night. I am also exceptionally proud of myself for taking up the opportunity without hesitation. It stands as a big "fuck you" to all the times I've been kept from devoting time to the things I enjoy most (writing, performing, playing music, socialising with friends) by mental health issues and crippling self doubt.

More thanks than I have words for to Duncan Hope who organised the event, Tarns Hood, who was also a billed poet on the night and is a very talented performer, Michael Gray who ran the door on the night and is always full of kind words and hugs and anyone/everyone reading this who came along to support me on the night. I love you all and you make my life so much easier for being in it.

My next post here will be about my involvement in local theatre in the later months of 2015.

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