Dylan Thomas was born on October 27, 1914 in Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom. Dylan was a poet, reporter, playwright, radio broadcaster, author, master of the English language…. In college I was required to read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. It was good, but I found it self-serious and a bit pompous. Then I discovered Thomas’s glorious answer, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. I was hooked.
Dylan Thomas was a notorious drinker. He died too young, at age 39 on reading tour. In honor of this artist who is impossible to categorize I am reprinting the post I wrote after my writers’ group did a reading in an Irish pub.
The evening did not go as planned. – Jadi
I’ve belonged to a writers’ group since 2011. How did I survive so long without the company of my crazy peers and fellow wordsmiths? I have no idea what I did before I hooked up with these people.
Over the years the group has included writers of short stories. Essays. Erotic (really erotic) poetry. Autobiographies. Plays. Novels. Urban fantasy. Flash fiction. Song lyrics. Wistful thinking (how a member explained what he writes, and I loved his description).
We come together to share and critique works-in-progress. We use writing exercises to loosen up our creative muscles. And we’re committed to public readings.
A little café named Wir Sind Babel was one venue. A brightly lit coffee house with marble floors and comfy chairs was another. And a third one…. well, that venue gets a blog post all its own.
An Irish pub I’ll call The Blarney Stone seemed like the ideal spot. The bar’s slowest weeknight was the perfect time.
We could use a side room for our event. The space resembled a library room filled with bookcases, a perfect setting for our brilliant words. Even better, the owner promised us if we could total 50 people we’d get the main room – they often feature live musical acts and the entire bar was already wired to hear us. He had a microphone we could use! Sweet!
A Toast Master offered to be our MC. He’d read short bios to introduce each reader. We printed up fliers for the tables and info sheets to hand out ahead of time. It was all perfect…
Doesn’t this sound too good to be true?
That Tuesday we arrived with high expectations. Our side room grew too small for all our friends and guests, but the main room was already filled with patrons who, sadly, were not there for our earthshaking literary creations.
Every chair was taken and people sat and stood everywhere. Waiters and waitresses had to slither their way with plates and drinks through the crowds. Then we realized our side room had no door, and that meant no barriers against the noise levels that kept increasing.
No worries. We were as cool as the collective cucumber, because we had the ultimate secret weapon: the microphone. The first reader began to recite her piece.
The m crophone we were loan d began sh rt ng out w th ever sec nd sente ce and nex with ev ry thi d word. It g t wors . The m ke beg n to let o t awf l and ear splitt ng sccccrrre eee ee ech hhhhiiiing fee eeedb ck. We checked that the batteries were fresh and the wiring solid. We tried holding the mike in different parts of the room, closer to our lips, away from our mouths, up in the air. We recited louder, and then more quietly; none of it made a difference.
At that point every writer in the room knew we’d been rat f cked. Without saying much (not that we could have heard one another anyway over the noise in the pub) we had that group moment of grokking that this evening would not be the literary triumph we’d all awaited.
The first reader gamely made it through her piece. The second reader performed in a different corner of the room. When it was my turn to read I lay the mike down on the pult and basically yelled out my story, observing every pause, emphasis and careful nuance I’d practiced. No one heard a word over the pub din.
But I am so very proud of all of us. We observed grace under pressure. We went forward despite impossible conditions (and false promises made to us). We made the best out of the debacle… and it really brought us together as fellow failed performers.
The pub owner got more than fifty extra paying guests on what was his slowest night of the week! I’d like to say he bought us a round of drinks to make up for it. I’d really like to say that our words triumphed over noise decibels. But no, that night the gift of gab got stuck in a malfunctioning microphone.
Our next public reading was not held in an Irish pub. The first moral of the story? To get over stage fright, sometimes you have to scream. The second moral to the story? Don’t mess with writers, because at some point we will write about you and what you did.
In memory of Dylan Thomas, 27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953
NOTES: Text and book cover © Jadi Campbell 2014. Previously published as The Gift of Gab. Images courtesy of dreamstime.com
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