When my sister and I were kids, we turned The Moon by R.L. Stevenson into a song and dance which we gleefully performed for our parents. To this day, whenever I think of that poem, I immediately hear it as a song and I struggle to remember the words if I’m not singing it. I can’t remember performing any other poems like that even though I come from such a performance-rich culture. Jamaicans have a fairly strong oral tradition which includes performance of stories and poems. Immediately, I think of the late Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverly, Mutabaruka and Joan Andrea Hutchinson. Pretty early on I decided I didn’t have the innate talent and creativity to be anything more than a consumer of this oral tradition. As such, I have dabbled in poetry for the page but nothing performance-based. So you can imagine my anxiety when last week Thursday I performed at a party with 40 guests including complete strangers and some of the people closest to me.
My husband and I were hosting Dinner with Friends: The Christmas Edition in our condo’s party room. Our co-hosts, Vidya and Llorene – the architects of Dinner with Friends – like the savvy hosts they are, decided to spice up the event with performances from several past and future Dinner with Friends guests. The performances were diverse: stand-up comedy, poetry, and song. I performed what I called “some words strung together”. Being a self-confessed amateur, I wasn’t sure what to call my piece – a poem? spoken word? a story? Perhaps an argument could be made for each of these as I’m a bit unclear on the distinctive features. This is certainly something I hope to discover along my journey. The piece was incredibly personal and I felt quite vulnerable reading it for that particular crowd – though I’m not sure any other crowd would have been less anxiety-inducing. I think it was received well – a few people commented to me that they liked it but I can never tell if people are just being kind. In any case, the event, and that performance in particular, marked the official beginning of my journey.