A couple of months back, one of my dearest friends, Krissy Kneen told me she was going to be reading poetry naked at the Qld Poetry Festival. Diana told her that we were definitely going to come along. I was a bit… uncomfortable, I think I’ve been nude in front of a handful of people in my entire adult life.
It was a nude open mike event. The wonderful David Stavanger was hosting – I was happy enough (sorta) to be nude – but, at the door he said to Diana and I: You’re both reading, right?
Diana nodded enthusiastically, and I answered: No chance in hell.
We stripped in a room full of poets, all of us, quietly and at the same time.
And within a few breaths it was wonderful, discomfort fell away, and we waited to hear the poems. Still, when the call went out for readers there was a slight hesitation. Diana looked at me, took a deep breath, and got up to read. First.
She read about the source of her scar, the Intensive Care Unit where she lived (so close to death) for weeks after her liver transplant, and she made me cry: even though I had heard the poem several times before. I have never felt so proud. There was my wife reading in front of an audience for the third time in her life and she was doing it nude.
Then we had more readings, and Krissy, who we were all there to see, read beautifully from a new work (you can read it, and about her experience, here). It was a room filled with love, and laughter.
So, I thought what the hell. I got up and had a go too. Might have been better if I had prepared something – the two poems I recited I managed to forget lines even though they were brief pieces, which really seems to prove that reading in public is more nerve-wracking than nudity.* But I was so nicely heckled that I didn’t mind.
Regardless, it was a fabulous event, at a wonderful poetry festival, and one I will remember for the rest of my life.Fill a room full of nude poets and writers and readers and what you get is supportive and gentle and far more lovely than I would have believed. Angela Meyer described it as an Unforgettable Festival Moment and I completely agree.
Thank you Krissy, and David and everyone else involved in giving us the chance to do something really wonderful and frightening, and to discover it really isn’t (nor should be) that frightening at all. We gave each other the gift of our vulnerability and it was a powerful and fabulous thing.
*Also, proves the first law of readings. If there is a chance you might read HAVE SOMETHING READY!
(AND BECAUSE I AM VAIN HERE ARE THE POEMS AS THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN READ
COLONEL GEORGE PYROMANIAC
Colonel George with the bulging eyes,
liked to stare at ladies’ thighs,
he yearned to find what lay within
but never did, it was sin,
to see, to touch, to love and learn
so, instead, he liked to burn.
And that he did, dressed like a clown,
he set alight the whole damn town.
A pocket-sized epiphany
to fit inside your pocket.