Poetry Readings Not Just For Ponces

So there’s the bunch of us poetry types, awkwardly situated in the Borders history section such that poor unassuming history types wandering around in search of The Fall Of Byzantine or whatever had unexpected encounters with Luke’s asshole musings or Yi-Sheng banging a book wildly against his head while shrieking:

Mary had a little lamb!
Do you like green eggs and ham!
I love you and you love me!
Frame thy fearful symmetry!
Let us go then, you and I!
Like a diamond in the sky!
Happy birthday and hello!
(from A Loud Poem to be Read to a Very Obliging Audience, by Ng Yi-Sheng. One of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets.)

I enjoy poetry readings. Even the ones that reek of pretension amuse rather than annoy me, and most of the readings I’ve been to in Singapore have generally been populated by people who go there for love of the craft rather than some self-pleasing agenda.

I remember John Agard and Grace Nichols in the Substation courtyard, infusing candle-lit night air with their fascinating rhythm. I recently described our backfired attempt at comedy during an open-mike session in the same place. There were all those readings at the National Library as well – Luke reading Climbing Mount Biang (I can’t remember how it went exactly, but it was something like “After climbing Biang/You realize that the only thing worse than going up Biang/Is going down Biang/Wah biang!”. The last two words are a Hokkien “exclamation”.), some Aussie guy singing a strummy thing he called Dolphin Song and the sound guy behind him cracking up because it was so laughably bad, and always at least one poem that managed to touch me.