Someone once died at a Geoffrey Hill poetry reading. I presume the cause of death would have been given as ‘misadventure’. Did GH interrupt proceedings or not? That I don’t know.
I remember an American poet once savouring his poems so much he decided to read some of them twice.
Michael Hartnett, who was a short man, once mistook an overhead projector’s lamp for a microphone and spent a reading hunched over trying to speak into it, or so I’ve been told. On hearing some giggles he straightened up and asked indignantly what the audience thought was so funny.
Jessica Smith, I have read on Silliman, distributes copies of the ‘next poem she is going to read’ before standing mutely, reading it. Some of the time. Not all of the time.
I have seen poets with their inter-poem patter written out neatly on prompt cards.
I saw a poet in York the other month receive a text message during his reading, stop to have a look, then start the poem again.
A story about Irish poet Desmond Egan’s reading style also involves Michael Hartnett. It’s been told better elsewhere, but involves Hartnett interrupting a theatrical-sounding poetry chorus staged by Egan, Hugh Kenner and Hugh Kenner’s wife, which had gone on much longer than anyone else’s reading on the same night. Very fairly, Hartnett thought enough was enough: ‘How long is this nonsense going on? Your twenty minutes are up!’
The poetry heckle. There is a story about John Montague asking his audience for requests, only for someone to shout ‘Death of a Naturalist’, but I’m sure that’s apocryphal.
There was the introducer who described a very well-known writer as a ‘fairly well-known poet’.
The Black Mountaineers' readings would go on for hours. I’ve read descriptions of Creeley and Olson readings that would only come to an end when the janitors turned off the lights and began locking up the building.
A writer once told me of asking someone who was being polite after her reading, ‘And do you write yourself?’ only to receive the answer that this was the person she had just read with.
Poetry readings. Who’d go to one, I ask myself. Who’d give one, for God’s sake. Emily Dickinson never gave a poetry reading.