'Word Jam' at the Jam Cafe in Nottingham on Sunday 17th Feb keeps replaying in my head. I keep recalling it. Because it exceeded all my expectations and coalesced into something quite special and exciting. Every day since I've been getting messages to say how interesting or moving it was. I've just put some photos of it on the website (www.wordjam.weebly.com) but naturally these fail to capture any of this. As the co-ordinator and compere I was nervous, never having hosted a live event before. The role requires, I suppose, that same kind of 'free mental attitude' that I'm learning in my meditation practice: the excercising of constant but minimal control, coupled with an alert acceptance that ANYTHING can - and probably will - happen.
I'd never met Xiaoying before. She utterly charmed us with her poem about a blossoming tree, the Chinese words fell like translucent petals, the audience in complete silence. I think that was why the night worked: because the original languages were allowed equal space with the English and they communicated at a level deeper than normal sense. And there's a curious pleasure in listening to languages taken out of their utilitarian context, in their concentrated, most musical form. A pleasure in letting our eardrums thrum with their unfamiliar cadences. And that pleasure, too, is some kind of recognition that these cadences actually go beyond the borders of our eardrums and invade our bodies, occupy our bodies, at the level of the visceral and the molecular. And that, miraculously, at this level, there is no loss of sovereignty, no threat, no clash, no foreignness. Only sharing.
Mina chanted her poem in Farsi and there were moments when she was rapt, lost. Cristina, Inma and Andres read in Spanish. Cristina read Lorca. Celine read Baudelaire in French. Michek read Szymborkska in Polish. Anna read Cavafy in English.
There was lots of music on the night, too. Much more than I'd originally planned! Petrica sang in English and Romanian. There were also songs in French and Hungarian. The night reminded me that we draw a falsely distinct line between song and poem. Weren't Anglo Saxon poems and Ancient Greek poems chanted to the accompaniment of the lyre?
The column to the left was written on the Nottingham to St.Pancras train on Thursday 21st Februrary, 2013. Below are some snippets of conversation, overheard while I was writing...
"Are we getting off at Market Harborough?" says the button-eyed three year old girl to her mother. "No, darling, we alight the train at Market Harborough." Alight the train??!! Remind me never, ever, to get off at Market Harborough.
"My parents are training to be Salvation Army ministers," says the teenager girl. "I'm giving up sugar in my coffee for Lent. I usually have three sugars. It's a very, very bad habit. Are you giving up anything for Lent?" "Yes," says the middle-aged man opposite her. "But I can't tell you what it is."
"Where's your daddy? Our daddy's in London." "My daddy died when I was three months old." "What did he die of?" "He died of smoking." "SMOKING! Smoking is bad. Do you have spelling tests? We have spelling tests every Friday."