I was extremely happy to be a part of this entertaining event at Greenwich Theatre, London SE10 on Sunday, 24th November. The Live Canon Poetry Competition is different to most other poetry comps because not only are all shortlisted poems published in a handsomely produced anthology, they are also performed on stage by members of the Live Canon Ensemble at the annual Prize Giving bash (free bar and crisps!). And there is a £1,000 First Prize Award for the winning poem (this year won by Tessa Foley @Unhelpable for her fabulous poem ‘Love Story’).
It was an excellent afternoon of meeting other poets (two of whom, Isabel Rogers and Geraldine Clarkson, I was friends with over the internet so it was especially lovely to meet them in person) and watching and listening to twenty-one poems being performed. There was a wonderful variety of subject matter and styles and the audience was never anything other than enthralled and appreciative!
Of all the pieces performed, ‘Thanks for not switching me off’, my poem, was my least favourite and I know that this is, in part, due to my feelings of possessiveness about my own work. It wasn’t the first time an actor has interpreted something I’ve written (many years ago, two of my plays were performed on stage and on radio) but it was the first time I’d had no say whatsoever in the spoken delivery of my work. I still greatly admired the way my poem was performed but I wish I could have sent the actor a film clip of the 1970s pop group ‘The Three Degrees’ (referenced in my piece) singing When Will I See You Again? so that she might have incorporated some of their moves into the poem – you need to read what I wrote to understand what I mean!
Award-winning poet and playwright, Glyn Maxwell, who presented the final award on stage and who works frequently with Live Canon, made reference to the controversy surrounding this year’s Forward Prizes when actors, rather than the poets themselves, read at the awards ceremony. But the Live Canon Ensemble, knowledgeable and passionate about poetry, really are in a different league. Isabel Rogers also makes reference to this in her terrific blogpost about the afternoon and (and she’s also posted her poem for you to read).
And finally….. this event was something of a family affair for me. Live Canon works extensively with people far, far too young to have ever heard of The Three Degrees and runs an annual Poetry Competition for Young People aged 5 – 15 which receives thousands of entries. My great-niece, Lola, was one of the finalists in this year’s competition and came along to the adult show to support the auntie who is following in her footsteps. Here we are at work on some poems together – nothing staged about these photos in the least, I’m sure you’ll agree!
Details of how you can buy this year’s anthology containing all 21 shortlisted poems available here.