After Words

19. MikeHere’s a picture of the Symposium’s very own Mike Smith reading  at the Poetry Symposium. He’s reading it from Southlight, as it happens. (You should submit something to them!)

Symposium number four has been and gone. We have gone through a venue change. The event was different, for sure, but I think it kept its vital features. We had more people attending: that was a change. I counted 60+ different people across the day. Audiences averaged at 40 for each session. The pop-up bookshop took money for the poets (and the presses) which is always an essential. The overall feeling is that people appreciated having better access to the bookshop – and the catering facilities! And the toilets! The space worked, I think. People have commented to me about the sound in the room; I take your point. I did find that if I was at the side of the room where Wayleave where then I could hear. And if I was up at the bar, I could hear less well. The comments have been hugely positive – and I am thankful for them.

To clarify something: our change to the new venue was organised in the summer (to Tullie House’s summer hours). I had to shave off time with two weeks to go for this Symposium. Obviously I could’t cut out a ‘Featured Writer’, so the breaks were shorter. This will never happen again. A good break is a good break. Thanks for the kind comments about the good facilitation – but I do castigate myself for this. Twenty minutes is the blink of an eye for a break. They were longer at Symposia 1 to 3. They will be longer again. As soon as the venue have got back to us we’ll publicise a date for the next one. We already have three writers provisionally booked and there’s quite a lot of contacting people to do.

Something else that is on my mind is the open mic. We have to have open mic, it is the lifeblood of the piece. However, I have had some thoroughly entertaining suggestions about how to reign in some of the open mic readers. I guess some poets just have no idea how long four minutes is. I am now painfully aware of how long four minutes is! A small amount of research reveals that silent reading speed is between 175 – 300 words a minute. So, if people don’t time their poems aloud… how would they know that their epic doesn’t come in under four minutes? Conversational speech speed is about 150 words a minute – or more, if you’re very convivial. Something called ‘presentational speed’ is 100 words a minute, apparently. I think you could argue that ‘poem speed’ is even slower. So, if people read a poem (or a series of poems…) that is three times too long, that’s because they’re making an honest mistake. So, if you have an introduction knock off a hundred words (that is what I said), then you might have a maximum of 300 words to fit in a four minute spot. Even that sounds like loads, but consider that ‘The Road Not Taken’ is 144 words. That’s half your spot gone in four stanzas. So, you might effectively have eight stanzas’ worth of spot. Worth a thought.

By way of closing, a few people have expressed an interest in workshops as part of the day. Would that interest you? Would you pay for it? We might start the day with one, possibly? Just a thought. The Symposium has to stay free. But we could grow the event by building around it, if there was the demand. Let me know.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the day. Thanks to all the people who’ve said that they did.


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