Do you look like a poet? Do I look like a poet? What does a real poet look like at all? This is a difficult matter, for myself as a blind poet or for any other sighted poet. When you stand up in front of an audience, do you worry that you look like a poet or, at least, what the audience expects a poet to look like?
What does a poet dress like? Smart in a suit, smart-casual in a jacket but with jeans and trainers; or in a t-shirt or polo shirt? Of course lady poets have infinitely more choices in how they look than men poets, and I am deeply envious of that, but I am sure that the same question troubles both sexes equally, "do I look like a poet?"
At this point I must apologise for this post taking a few very tangential twists and turns! I began writing the ideas down for this post at the same point I was watching the film The Fault in Our Stars (for the umpteenth time); I personally love the film. I first watched it during the time I was receiving chemo for a brain lymphoma, and the film covered matters that were close to my heart, not least who will remember us when we are gone? One of the themes through the film is that some infinities are bigger than others, and I like that a lot. When I think about the infinite number of ways I have been a poet, and how I have looked as a poet, over the years I realise how they have had seemingly endless variety. When my late teens, when I first started writing, I experimented with an infinite variety of looks, most likely testing my parents' patience to its limit. In my university days my hair became longer and my clothes more studenty and my writing began to cover winder angles as I began to figure out what sort of poems I wanted to write and what sort of poet I wanted to be. My working life then made its presence felt, and although I resisted the urgings (for a while) to cut my hair, I did find that my working life cut into my poetry writing life quite dramatically. These changes seem to all have persisted each for a decade, and in my fourth decade came the biggest challenges to how I want to be as a poet, and how I want to look as a poet.
My fourth decade has seen me welcoming blindness and a new kidney into my body, and having to dig my heels in and fight against a brain lymphoma. It seems like another, bigger, infinity has presented itself, leaving me with the task of incorporating my blindness into my poetry writing, and extending my poetic range to look at a wider spectrum of disability issues.
On Tuesday I headed to Stratford-Upon-Avon for an interesting event. Seeing More Clearly with the Eyes of Love: A liturgy of voices based on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Five poets, Micheal O’Siadhail, Sinead Morrisey, Michael Symonds Roberts, Lawrence Sail, and Jenny Lewis, each read an original poem about a different character from the play. I made the trip specifically to see Irish poet Micheal O'Siadhail read his poem. I last saw Micheal at Swansea's Year of Literature, in what I'm guessing was 1995, which was the launch year for Micheal's collection A Fragile City.
So to get back to the matter of what a poet looks like ... This is a photo of Micheal O'Siadhail and me after the service, and I hope I look suitably poetic snapped alongside Micheal, who has 16 impressive poetry collections to his name :)