Take This Longing. That was my theme. Those three beautiful words finally convinced me to enter the Masque of Poetic Dread at the Butterly and Pig pub in Glasgow last night. Three words burrowing into my head even when I was sleeping. I loved those words.
Even though my oldest friend insisted I'd be better writing about Take That Longing.
The event, devised by John Savage and Marc Sherland, challenged entrants to 'plead for their souls in verse.' A spooky room strewn with bones; the white, ghastly faces of Sheriff Dreadful and Grim Reality, the two hosts, and their acolyte, Last Page (aka Mrs Julie Savage); a collection of Glasgow poets all in masks.
That was the other attraction for me, the chance to wear a mask. Mine featured purple satin, glossy black iridescent feathers and black lace. A perfect match for my black and purple velvet Goth frock - if you're going to attend a mediaeval masque you really have to get in character. My companion, the poet AC Clarke, wore a cat mask topped with a Spanish riding hat. Others wore red feathers, skull masks, sunglasses. There was even a smirking Ricky Gervais.
To the cackling of Sheriff Dreadful and the jibes of Grim Reality, poets explored their given themes, mostly in rhyming verse to start with, a fact which left me in utter panic. My teenage attempts at poetry ended when the great Scots poet Stewart Conn told me I was writing in Alexandrines, over-shooting the line, and should perhaps consider prose - I had thought my efforts were in iambic pentameter.
Luckily I was called to perform before I could sneak out the door. I had written a dramatic monologue by a banshee, a woman who had escaped the Glencoe massacre with someone else's husband and later died in childbirth. Instead of acting as a harbinger of death, she wanted to get back to life.
Where do ideas come from? There were some words in my head, words of female defiance that came from nowhere; there was an image of a snow leopard I'd seen pacing in Edinburgh Zoo, an image I didn't use in the end. How the Glencoe setting emerged, I have no idea. Where John Savage got my three beautiful words from, I have even less.
But it all seems to have worked. My piece was selected for publication in a forthcoming book, along with an incredibly witty poem by Catherine Baird, who wrote on the theme, Prayer for an Angel (equating angels with poets!), and a bloody meditation by David Prentice, a stalwart of Marc Sherland's monthly Word Factory.
In the interval, the stand-up comics on the floor below had their fun at the writers' expense, wittily branding us 'pretentious twats.' Their linguistic skills seemed limited to the repetition of four letter words, which had their audience sniggering like kids in the schoolyard. I just felt sorry for them - not a mask or a scrap of purple velvet among them.