I recently went to my first 'open mic' poetry event. I had been meaning to go for years, but something, the stalling engine of the unknown, got in the way. This time, I left the house and accepted no excuse from my mind to go back.
The most beautiful thing about the evening was the chance to see and hear other characters, so different, stand and read. Some spoke from memory, their hard-won words burned into their minds like habits. Some read from a lectern in the corner with didactic poise. When it came to my turn, the feeling felt familiar, as though I was with old friends, beside a fire in some Scottish cottage after a hearty dinner. I had no idea what to read, so I had brought along a mini-variety-pack - something loving, something funny, something risky, something thoughtful. Hearing applause was strange, like unexpected rain on an old shed roof.
It felt that I had stepped into a big family of friends all over the country, doing something because they wanted to. If you listen carefully, it's a chance to glimpse a wealth of different lives, all packaged and arranged for you in lines. The stories were so varied: the aftermath of a heart attack; the pleasure and pain of visits to the gym; even a psalm recited. You couldn't ask for more - the pleasure of other's lives presented for you on a plate, to listen to with eyes closed, on a gentle autumn night.