What a thrill it was to be invited to the Derwent Poetry Festival (7th November 2015) at Masson Mills, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire by Templar Poetry's supremo Alex McMillen. It was a further thrill to meet Alex and find out that he is a fellow Northern Irish countryman of mine.
It started for me months ago when I submitted a collection of poems for consideration as a pamphlet publication. I wasn't chosen but Alex did select two of my poems for the Mill anthology and invited me along to read at the event. Of course, I accepted.
I travelled on the Saturday morning and arrived at about 10.30. I was scheduled, along with other anthology poets to read my poems during the first session of the day.
I read two poems from a sequence under the heading 'When' about events that were happening in my life with things happening elsewhere at roughly the same time:
'When De Niro as Misfit Travis Bickle was doing his "You talkin' to me?" thing, I moved to Manchester to work in BHS (1976)' (In the 'Mill" anthology)
'When Elvis Presley died, they didn't even try to break it to me gently. (1977)'
I must admit I felt more nervous than I thought I would be, not because of standing in front of an audience. I have done that dozens of times. My nervousness was due, I think, to my erratic confidence as a writer and worrying too much about reaction and feedback to my work. Fortunately, comments were warm and encouraging.
In the afternoon, I read 'When James Bond was tackling Scaramanga, The Man with the Golden Gun, my big brother was lying on a mortuary slab (1974)' (In the 'Mill" anthology) and a lighter poem about time wasted waiting for a call centre to respond and the wandering thoughts that can fill the vacuum. It's called 'Holding'.
It was a pleasure to listen to the wonderful poets on the bill and I urge you, if you are not aware already, to familiarise yourself with Templar Poetry, the most exciting publishing house of the genre. Here's the link to them, their fabulous books and their enthusiasm - http://templarpoetry.com/