Taking teenagers to poetry readings

I don’t know if it will make them loathe or love poetry more than the next person but my teenage children sometimes come with me to poetry readings. It helps if the venue is as comfortable, relaxed and welcoming as The Boston Tea Party on Park Street in Bristol where I went with my 13 year old son, Johnny, to hear Matt Merrit, Alasdair Paterson and Carrie Etter read on Friday evening in the Park Street Poetry Series, organised by David Briggs. The readings take place upstairs in a large, rectangular room with tables and soft-seating around the edges. Poets read from a microphone at the front so visibility and audibility is superb. Food and drink were served from the café downstairs until 8pm and Johnny carried (several times) snacks and drinks and settled in to listen. OK, so he did have his iPod with him and there were times when he tuned in and out of the poets and sometimes gazed out of the window (lovely views of Bristol) and air-drummed (in John’s case, he frequently forgets about the “air” bit and actually drums on the table so a polite word or significant look was sometimes required. But he’s an obliging chap.)

Walking home afterwards I asked him which poems he liked best and I was quite surprised that he remembered work from all three poets – so he really had been listening, at least some of the time. He liked Alasdair’s poem about the pub-singers misquoting The Beatles’ songs; Matt’s poem ‘The Elephant in the Room’ – “…Every knock on the door these days/seems to be dung beetle, but even they/are beginning to doubt their ability to keep pace/with production.” (from The Elephant Tests, Nine Arches Press, 2013) and he was especially taken with Carrie’s prose poems from Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014) – he liked ‘Imagined Sons 9: Greek Salad’ – “A black olive wiggles atop a romaine leaf, as though to wave, I am your son, brutally transformed!

I think Carrie’s poems strongly appealed to Johnny because of the clear narrative drive behind this sequence of poems about a mother giving up her son for adoption and looking for him in later life. Carrie is a captivating reader and this really appealed to him.

It was a very enjoyable evening and while we won’t be hitting all the poetry hotspots on a regular basis, I don’t think Johnny will turn his nose up too much if I suggest another poetry reading some time soon.  Matt Merrit has written a great account of the evening on his excellent blog.
Poetry at BTP

9 thoughts on “Taking teenagers to poetry readings”

    1. It’s never too late for poetry! It’s so interesting, the assumptions we sometimes make about children – I do it myself and probably wouldn’t take mine to events like this if my husband didn’t work away from home so often. I hate leaving them home alone all the time but don’t want to miss out on the occasional reading so they come along. I think it really helps if there is no pressure to listen and the venue is relaxed and welcoming. Thanks for commenting, socialbridge 🙂


      1. My pleasure! You really have me thinking. But at 18, going on 19, would a ‘child’ not be going with friends rather than ‘Mama?’ As I write this, I think of how I went to such things as poetry readings with my mother up to when she died when I was in my 50s! So once a child, always a child, arguably!


      2. You’re right, and I am discovering a very pleasurable side of parenthood now that SOME of our interests are overlapping and our relationship doesn’t always have to centre on who is the parent and who is the child.


    1. Oh, that’s a shame, Col! I don’t think my kids would come along if there was nothing else on offer (food/drink/interesting venue) and I can’t see them rushing out to poetry events with their mates any time soon!


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