Dean Walker is a potentially ‘barely literate’ poet from Runcorn in the North West of England. Here’s his blog about preparing to perform at our In Retrospect event on 16 February…
To quote David Byrne and a very famous Talking Heads song ‘How did I get here?’ The honest answer is, I’m not really sure! I’ve never performed poetry in front of audience in my life, but on the 16th February at First Draft Manchester, I’ll be fulfilling an ambition that I’ve never quite had the guts to do up until now.
I’m 41 and I’m thinking that this is possibly the latest instalment of a mid-life crisis. But it’s a healthy mid-life crisis! I haven’t gone out and bought a sports car or got a tattoo. I’m simply realising a little bit too late that I can stop worrying about what people will think and how they’ll rate me. I’m here because I want to be, because I’m inspired by the other people who do this kind of thing and because the only reason I stopped being creative, is because I lost sight of what it was that I enjoy the most.
I’ve been interested in First Draft for a number of months. It’s a brilliant concept and one I’ll be proud to say I’ve performed at. Having seen the high standard of performance, I’m concerned I’ll stand out as hopelessly out of my depth, but that’s the exact kind of sentiment that would have always prevented me from just getting up and having a go in the past. I went to see a David Ford gig recently at GORILLA, he performed a brilliant retrospective song called ‘Every Time’. In that song he refers to ‘barely literate poets’. It’s a phrase I can’t get out of my head, because I’m worried that’s what I’m going to expose myself as, but again, that’s the voice that I grapple with every day which convinces me it’s easier to not do things than to have a go and face ridicule or criticism.
In response to the theme ‘In Retrospect’, I’ll be performing a poem which looks back at my career working in an office, where I’ve felt like a fish out of water for much of the 15 years I’ve been there, so I figure feeling like that for 6 minutes on stage can’t be that bad! Perhaps performing my poetry will just be a really inexpensive way of getting some therapy; an opportunity to stop biting my tongue and simply say a few things I want to say out loud.
I wish now I could wrap up by saying my poetic influences were Italian poets from the 13th Century; I can’t. The whole point of this for me is about being honest. I’m unashamedly a pop culture person, I’m far more likely to quote Bob Dylan than Dante Aligheri. But who knows? This experience may open my mind into taking an interest in things I’ve never discovered before!
So in answer to my opening question, perhaps writing this note has helped me establish just how I got here. It’s the desire to not just look back at my past but to also think about my future.
‘He who ain’t busy being born is busy dying’
Bob Dylan (It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding)
In Retrospect recommended listening:
Catch Dean reading his ‘barely literate’ (bit harsh) poetry at The Castle Hotel in our In Retrospect event on Monday 16 February