Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Open Mic anyone

Absolutely brilliant piece in the Poetry Ireland newsletter on open mics and poetry readings in general by Michael O'Loughlin, writer fellow at Trinity. Download it and read. Now. While I don't agree with every word, there's a whole lot of truth in there. Any comments?


About Mags... said...

I found Michael's article arrogant and dismissive. He is judging poetry and open mics from his own perspective of what he would like poetry to be. Anyone attending a poetry reading and/or open mic should be aware that people reading at an open mic are doing so from various perspectives. For some, it is a major life achievement just to stand up once in front of a group of people and to read their own work. I have encountered so many people with so many different reasons to perform at open mics, and I admire the courage of those for whom it is a rite of passage and major achievement.
Michael O'Loughlin is a poet himself, and he is writing from the perspective of poetry readings being purely a platform for budding and established poets. It is not. It goes much deeper than that as a social and community event.
Given the variety of readings that are presented at an open mic, it can only be expected that there will be some pieces that appeal to you, some that won't.
In Michael O'Loughlin's article, rather than acknowledging that, he chastises the readers that don't appeal to him personally.
Not only that, he points to individual readers and tries to identify them by talking about certain clothing they wear. Why doesn't he have the courage to say who these people are who he thinks should be pushed out of the way in favour for whatever the poetry is that he reckons to be top notch.
A cowardly and arrogant article.

BarbaraS said...

Oh boy, I thought the whole controversy about 'open mics' had died off: remember all the tooing and froing we had between Kevin Higgins and James McAuley about it in PIR before?

There will always be people who don't see the value of the 'open mic' or having platforms that mix and match readings with that sort of format. I think there should be room for both without antagonism: some people can develop from the'open mic' scenario, and can sometimes break through into the bigger scene, as has been shown by some poets on the Galway scene, Limerick and Cork...not to mention in Dublin, Belfast etc. etc.

Readings are a vital element of poetry. As O Loughlin admits, hearing a poet whose work you didn't get on with can be a revelation, making it understandable in a way that it hasn't engaged before. Heaney talks about a similar Damascene moment when he heard the TS Eliot's work read aloud.

Poetry is designed to be heard; to deny a voice to poetry is to stifle its development, however halting. I think there are pros(e) and cons to 'open mics' but there are pros and cons to all sorts of creative endeavours (like the old chestnut, what is the point of art).

I do wonder about a comment such as this though: "For example, it’s useful if one of them is a priest, a publisher, a probation officer, or just has a large family." People have to have lives outside of poetry,since poetry is done for love (not for cash); if you've got an unusual occupation that gives you great fodder for writing... or telling stories (I do wonder about that 'just' though... just having a large family...just???).

No doubt, this article was designed to be provocative; it's just a shame that the whole thing is set to go around in circles again, with little ground gained for those who make a genuine effort on behalf of poetry, whatever construed type.

Women Rule Writer said...

Michael seems to wander off the point a bit, if it's meant to be solely about open mics.
I don't like open mics because I've been to too many bad ones, where most of the readers were not reading poetry but personal rants full of repetition and hum-drum language. I get the impression these people are in love with the idea of themselves as poets rather than with poetry.
Plenty of professional poets are deadly boring too, and bad at reading, as Michael points out.
I guess it depends why you write poetry - to explore humanity for yourself, or to read your poetic thoughts aloud to others?