That time I met Simon Armitage

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.

Robert Frost

I needed to say something but I thought I would cry and if I cried I’d need to explain and that would be hard so I didn’t really say anything. In the end.

But I needed him to know the profound effect his ordinary poems had had on me. Like hearing someone with a similar voice say –

this is the day

this thing that you do

this language that you use

this voice that you have

it is okay

I would hear the the words and my voice and I  longed to sound different.

I wanted to show him that effect he had had, the difference he had made, with his ordinary poems on an ordinary person.

All I could manage was to ask for his signature and then wonder why I said signature not autograph and then why I bothered asking such a question at all considering there he sat and there I stood at the book signing table.

Behind him they sold his books.  Collections of his poetry. I had brought my own. Like a cheapskate at a cheap restaurant holding on to the cheap BYO wine. Free corkage. Bargain.

I felt a wave of guilt for my well loved copies. 

One I had bought on special at a closing down sale.

One was two quid at the Oxfam store in Notting Hill.

I wanted to tell him where I had stumbled on his poems. I wanted him to notice my copies stubbornly ignoring the gleaming newly designed slick covers of his back catalogue. Look at me. A true fan. With the real copies. Battered and read despite the uninspiring cover art. It’s the inside that counts. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or price tag.

But I didn’t say that. In the end.

I just politely asked for a signature.

Polite is boring. His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Before I lined up I did the obligatory browse through the obligatory pop up book store that accompanies such events. Couples in expensive coats who are meant to be seen at such events pondered which book to buy. A woman sighed wearily. Looking was difficult – she didn’t realise there were so many, didn’t know which one to buy. She could have bought them all. I could tell by her umbrella.

Into her sighs I suggested my favourite. This is my favourite, I said. Politely. Of course. She had that umbrella. 

She smiled a non-smile and flicked through my choice. Quickly. Too quickly. Then she put it back.

No, she winced, these are short stories.

No, I said, they are poems.

And I left her to figure it out.

At the book signing table I thought I should tell him that story. But I didn’t. In the end. I asked for his signature and tried to find that thing to say, to make that connection, to have that moment that would make the change –

this is the day.

Suddenly, without warning, the word Inspiration fell out of mouth. A decayed tooth sitting there on the page he was about to sign. Or autograph. Or both. I wanted to pick it up and put it back. But there it was in all its clichéd glory … Inspiration … 

I tripped over an apology but on my way he offered a landing; you write poems? he asked with his voices and his eyes. 

I try, I told him.

We’re all just apprentices, he said.

And I felt like that was okay. In the end.

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Ugly Ducklings and Snow Queens: Thoughts on a New Year

Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up.

Hans Christian Andersen

I chose the swan, and everyone laughed. Even the girl who was meant to be my friend – although I had had my doubts before this incident. The mean girl, whom I shall call Vanessa, because that was her name, had a tendency to rub her hands all over my face and chant “snow queen, snow queen” at me because, duh, I am quite pale. Yep. But still … Vanessa was meant to be a friend. And she laughed. At my swan.

It was the first year of high school. The well-meaning, socially awkward health teacher must have had some weird epiphany overnight and instead of the usual food pyramids and condoms on bananas, he asked us to draw a picture of the animal we’d most like to be.

I wanted to draw a human because, when you think about it, we have it pretty good compared to other animals. But I was studious and well-behaved and my rocking the boat stage wasn’t set to begin for another two years or so.

I had heard how swans mated for life and I thought there was something lovely about that, plus I thought they were elegant and I still secretly harboured a desire to be a ballerina despite my lack of coordination and, well, training. I had gone the route of many young women growing up in the early 90s; Jazz Dancing. There was nothing elegant about Jazz Dancing: Jazz Hands and Jazz Smiles and Jazz Leaps to The Shamen’s Ebenezer Goode. Anyway, regardless of my varied and weird reasons, I drew a swan.

If I had known we had to share our pictures with the class I may have gone for the lion or the eagle or the dolphin like everyone else. I said swan and they all laughed. Because they laughed, my well-meaning, socially awkward teacher thought I should be put through more humiliation and offer up an explanation for my choice. I wanted to tell him where to go but I was studious and well behaved and, as a result, provided much needed entertainment on that god-awful final period of the day.

I don’t know what the point of that story is to be honest … Maybe I still haven’t embraced my inner swan, maybe I’m still the ugly duckling, maybe I am a writer and read too much into things.

It happens every year; every time we click over to January 1 – I start to overanalyse and get anxious about goal setting and dream journalling and vision boards and what-am-I-doing-with-my-life and who-am-I and does Kiki-K have a range of items to help me plan for everything I think I need to achieve this year? (The answer is yes, yes they do. And no, I will not buy them all.)

I worry about the point of this blog, its raison d’être and the fact that I just popped in the phrase raison d’être because I love it even though I know it sounds completely pretentious, unless you happen to be French, of course. Nothing and everything sounds pretentious if you’re Parisian. What do I intend to do with this thing, this blog thing, this year? Why am I even keeping a blog? What is a blog really meant to be anyway? If my blog was an animal, what would it be? Blog is a weird word.

If I had the confidence and, let’s be honest, vanity and, let’s be even more honest, musical inclination, I might put it to music and become one of those on-trend cabaret performers who sing about their love-lives and embarrassing-but-oh-so-cute moments in witty, pithy songs whilst straddling the piano Delta Goodrem style. But this sort of vanity, let’s call it blog vanity, probably suits me better; I can hide in my “office” and assume no one has noticed, rather than looking out to the empty auditorium.

In the first serious show I wrote and performed in a friend whispered to me from the front row. We were about to begin. I started on stage. Very contemporary.

“Do you want to bother? No one is here,” he whispered – although he didn’t need to.

Despite his well intentioned warning, we went on. I couldn’t tell who was out there with the stage lights in my eyes, naivety in my heart. The three people in the audience, including the lighting / sound guy, clapped at the end and we all got a drink afterwards.

And that’s it … That is my big old plan for 2015. To perform for the three people in the room. To choose the swan when everyone else is the lion. To maintain a messy blog. To preserve. To create. To throw in French whenever I can, merci. And to try and read less into things …

Here’s to 2015.