Chaired the Arts Festival meeting last night. Some anxiety about the role, until it hit me (afterwards) that that’s what it is: a role that needs to be done. It doesn’t mean I’m personally responsible for the existence and quality of an Arts Festival in the town next year. It doesn’t mean I have to make executive decisions and carry the can for them. It doesn’t mean I suddenly have to be a charismatic leader (just as well!). It’s not about self-expression or my performance. It just means that a group of people discussing something can do so in the secure knowledge that someone is listening, bringing in those who’re less assertive, summarising every now and then and moving the discussion on. That’s all. In those terms I can manage.
In a way it ties up with a meeting earlier in the day with a friend who’s going through a difficult time: the role there is to be listener, not to push my own agenda. And there’s a corollary in musical performance, I’m learning, where your job is not to ‘be fascinating’ but to allow some music to come over to the audience. It doesn’t mean you have to be a statue or not get into the emotion of the song, but it does mean being aware of when you’re delivering the song and when you’re pushing a personal agenda of ‘look at me’.
Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. …..The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of an inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politians whom you despise. …. Do not work the audience for gasps and sighs. If you are worthy of gasps and sighs it will not be from your appreciation of the event but from theirs. … It will be in the data and the quiet organisation of your presence.
(extracts from How to Speak Poetry, Leonard Cohen from Death of a Lady’s Man)
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