Wining And Lining

12 Jul
Portrait of Francois de le Boë Sylvius and his...

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I’m a member of Write Out Loud, an organisation that promotes the reading of poetry aloud.  ‘Member’ is a strong word: all that is required is to show up and read.  No fees, no forms, just a love of poetry and a working mouth.  The Stockport group meets every second Sunday of the month at Stockport Art Gallery, upstairs.

Upstairs because the Art Gallery Art Group meet downstairs every Monday.  We don’t mind, because it means we only have to pay 25p for a brew in the break, instead of the 50p that is charged at other times.  Poets tend not to have much money; especially unpublished poets.

The WOL sessions are billed as ‘open mic’, meaning anyone can join in; but there’s no actual microphone at our sessions.  We sit in a circle amongst great, not so great, and, frankly, pretty naff at times, art, fighting the dreadful acoustics as we ignore each other’s work, interspersed with polite clapping and rhubarbing, while we wait for our turn to prove that no one else in the room has talent like we do.  Though that may be just me.

Last night’s session was a little different.  There was a real mic; and an audience.  Dim lights.  No tea.  I knew the Art Gallery was running a festival of sorts and I knew WOL had agreed to run a public session, but it didn’t occur to me that it might be an actual, formal thing, even though I had formally put my name down to read.  What can I say?  I’m a poet: I’m too busy thinking about words to ever listen to them.

I arrived last night to discover that I was to read two poems, eighth on the list, before a microphone.  Gulp.  Double gulp.  Several gulps, fortunately, because there was wine instead of tea (no charge) and my spot was after the break so I had time for a little Dutch courage.

I have always wondered about the phrase ‘Dutch courage’ so, in order to give me time to think about where my next paragraph is coming from, I Wikipediaed it.  I might have known: it is of Dutch origin.  Or Dutch gin, to be precise:

In 1650 Franciscus Sylvius, a Dutch doctor, created Dutch gin in an attempt create a diuretic medicine. This was then used by soldiers in the Thirty Years’ War by English troops and was an instant success for its warming properties on the body in cold weather and its calming effects before battle. Because of the effects of Dutch gin English soldiers fighting in the Dutch Republic in the 17th century apparently called the drink “Dutch Courage”.

Feeling slightly Hollandaised in my Netherlands, I got up in front of the mic, read my two poems, and sat down again.  Aren’t you proud of me?

Every recital teaches you something (my last one taught me how to shout over a heckling, dancing audience); this one taught me to choose my poems carefully if I don’t want to bore people.  My second poem was a fun poke at a A Tale Of Two Cities, into which I have shoehorned every Dickens title I can.  That’s great for an audience of, say, literature graduates or old people who got a real education before the Sixties; not so great for a bunch of twenty-somethings who pass their English exam by being taught certain passages only of a Shakespeare text, never having to read the whole thing.

To be fair, however, I’m only surmising the audience didn’t like it – I never actually looked at them the whole time I was up there.  I have the same problem when I read the lesson at church: I have no idea what the building looks like from the front, because I only see the words and the carpet.  I can’t believe I once dreamed of being an actress.  Though many of them do appear to spend their time looking at the ceiling these days, so I’d probably fit in.

We had more than double our numbers last night, and several children.  A boy of eleven read a wonderful poem that he’d written about being a pirate; and it was better than some stuff I’ve heard by professionals.  He was the youngest to read, and his grandmother the eldest.

It was an enjoyable night, and I’m thinking of moving to Holland as a result.  Their courage is way better than ours.



28 Responses to “Wining And Lining”

  1. Tinman July 12, 2011 at 11:42 #

    Well done, Tilly, your courage, whether Dutch or not, is way better than mine.

    And tee-hee on the Netherlands joke.


    • Tilly Bud July 12, 2011 at 12:40 #

      Thanks Tinman. I knew you’d appreciate it 🙂


  2. mairedubhtx July 12, 2011 at 12:01 #

    I’m proud of you for having the courage to get up and read your poems. Good for you!


  3. Cindy July 12, 2011 at 12:23 #

    Jolly well done, Tilly!


  4. Pseu July 12, 2011 at 17:33 #

    I can empathise with all of that. Every last drop.
    (The only thing was for me last week I knew I had to drive home, so less of the liquid fortification allowed. Sadly. )

    On another thought.. about this duiretic effect of Dutch Courage….


  5. Hattie July 12, 2011 at 17:41 #

    Really fun. I have belonged to such groups in the past, but have not found one lately that I would be interested in. Most people, even those who like to write, don’t have much literary background, I find.
    I’m going over to look at your poetry now.


  6. kiwidutch July 12, 2011 at 17:55 #

    Hollandaised indeed! was that poem become saucy as a result?
    You are most welcome to our contribution of Dutch courage, and if it helped, more power to ya!
    I already think you are brave standing up and reading in the first place. Public speaking no matter how few the “public” is my worst nightmare.
    Well done that you do this… I WISH I had your sort of courage and I *am* Dutch~ LOL !!!


  7. nrhatch July 12, 2011 at 18:51 #

    Brilliant idea for them to serve wine rather than tea on your first Open Mike night! 😀


  8. vivienne Blake July 12, 2011 at 20:14 #

    Bravo to the saucy Tilly. It sounds like a good time was had by all.


  9. Big Al July 13, 2011 at 02:27 #

    Great post and kudos to your bravery in recitation. The only thing missing was a link to the online site for ordering Dutch Courage or are you keeping that to yourself? Alas, I must away and Google.


  10. earlybird July 13, 2011 at 02:51 #

    Well done Tilly. I’m sure you’ll get even better at performing! You were an actress once.Remember Medea? 🙂

    How about sharing the poems with us?


  11. musings July 13, 2011 at 08:29 #

    Good for you, Tilly! Sounds like you had a good time! Keep it up.


  12. eof737 July 17, 2011 at 11:48 #

    I bet you did better than you think… Good job! 🙂


  13. sarsm July 19, 2011 at 21:57 #

    Way to go Tilly.



  1. Two Unpleasant Things « I'm Not A Verse - July 13, 2011

    […] at my other blog I discussed an open mic night I attended; there was a request to read the poems I used.  I […]


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