First off, don't panic! A Poetry Scratch might sound like a unpleasant literary skin condition, but it's actually just a type of live lit show.
The idea behind a Scratch is that the show being performed is still under construction, a work in progress. As a result of this, it might not be polished, and there may be unfinished elements, but the exciting thing about a Scratch is that it allows the writers and performers to experiment in front of a small audience, without fear of ridicule.
Well, with reduced fear of ridicule at least.
A Scratch is a great way for performers to find out which parts of their show work, and which parts need to be changed or improved; which jokes get a laugh and which parts of the narrative are superfluous to the story. The audience are usually invited to give feedback - as long as it's in the form of constructive criticism, rather than acerbic heckling - and the environment allows writers to take risks with a script in a way that they would be unable to do in a finished show.
Basically, a Scratch is a great opportunity to try out new ideas.
Before January this year, I'd never really thought about writing my own live literature show. Believe it or not, I'm actually kind of shy, so the thought of writing and performing an hour long show seemed more than a little bit daunting.
But, after a week of creative writing and workshopping in Mundesley as part of the Next Steps Writers' Retreat, I felt like I might have something worth pursuing. Plus, I'd already agreed to perform a twenty minute version of the show at the Norwich Arts Centre in April.
The deadline was set: it was time to get writing!
My show is about music. The idea itself stemmed from a conversation with a friend about a year ago. He was bemoaning the fact that there don't seem to be that many Goths around any more; as if they're some sort of species under threat. It got me thinking about whether the way we consume music in this crazy modern age has changed the way we relate to music in some fundamental way.
Could the ipod be killing off the Goth?
It sounded like a puzzle worth unraveling, and what better way to do it than through the medium of mildly funny poetry?
This idea also gave me an excuse to riffle through my teenage diaries and uncover some truly awful teen Goth poetry. Poetry that should have never seen the light of day.
Naturally, I had to read it out in front of an audience.
|My authentic teenage diary, plus the feedback forms from the Scratch|
The Scratch itself was terrifying. We had a small but enthusiastic audience, including friends, students of UEA, and some really fantastic Norwich based poets like Luke Wright, Tim Clare, Martin Figura, and Helen Ivory.
Andy Bennett and Russell J Turner were both incredible on the night. Andy's show was all about his love of history, and having the same haircut as Henry V. Andy's poetry is always fantastic, and his knowledge of Medieval/Early Modern military battles is second to none. I kinda felt like I was learning something, as well as having a good time, and he's such an engaging presence on stage that it's hard not to love everything he does.
Russell J Turner's show was the most personal of the evening, dealing as it did with his battle with alcoholism. Russell has this incredible talent for being both witty and poignant - often in the same breath - and his tale was moving, uplifting and utterly heartbreaking, all at the same time. By far the most complete of the three Scratches on the night, it was a really compelling piece, and I can't wait to see the full version when it's finished!
As for my Scratch? I think it went ok. The feedback from the audience was so incredibly helpful, and there are definitely parts of the story that need a major re-write. I was really pleased that people laughed at some of the jokes, especially the obscure ones, and someone even said that I was naturally charming.
How nice is that?
But there's plenty of work still left to do. There's a whole section at the beginning that doesn't feel quite right yet, and there are a few poems that don't quite fit the tone of the rest of the material. So there's plenty to keep me busy over the summer. Hopefully, it'll be ready for another airing in the autumn. Watch this space.