The performance of chamber music by the quartet Made in Canada was exciting; the venue and its acoustics were excellent. The ladies used their energies, their instruments, their skills to offer a marvellous experience that was met by an unmoving, dead wall.
Personally, the music and its performance did what it should: it involved me, made me want to dance and sing, anything to express the emotions it aroused. Even in the subdued surroundings I couldn't help shaking and bobbing my head, tapping my fingers and toes. When a nearly inaudible "bom, bom, badda bom" escaping from my mouth brought forth nasty looks and one hiss from my neighbours, I screwed the lid on tight and surreptitiously watched the audience.
They sat there. And that's it. Not a whisper or rustle, not a movement of any body part that might hint at pleasure. All that beauty of sound and movement on stage, all that energy pouring forth, and no visible response. Fine, the applause at the end of each piece was warm but still formal: no shouts, no punching the air (as I wanted to do.) The dress may be much more informal nowadays but the attitude still sucks. I don't intend to subscribe to any formal music series in this lifetime.
But this blog is about poetry so what has that to do with this. Poetry, when read to an audience, is a performance. It shouldn't hesitate to elicit an immediate reaction. Dub poets know this; rappers and hip-hop artists demand such involvement. Too many of our poetry readings, even of popular or people's poetry, are becoming staid and solemn. We need to put the joy, the despair, the laughter back into it.
Tonight at a Halloween event I intend to do a 'dramatic reading.' I'm going to ask the audience to respond as they see fit: shout, laugh, scream, throw food, whatever they are moved to do. I'll do my best to handle their reaction!