Monday, 21 February 2011

What is a perfomer?


performer (plural performers)

1. One who performs for, or entertains, an audience.

Last week I was invited to perform at Floetics as the main poetry act. I felt very honoured as I decided to take a step back from poetry last year and instead focus on short stories. (The novel writing has always felt like my job whilst performing poetry has been a hobby, and the short stories are somewhere in between.)

Floetics happens about once a month at the Red Roaster in Kemp Town. It's a very friendly and welcoming event, hosted by poet Jasmine Cooray. Yet I felt nervous, as if I was part of the audience, observing myself. I started to question myself, asking myself who the hell is this person on stage and what does she have to say? Luckily I managed to shut my inner critic up and do a good performance anyway, and I felt that I had the audience with me. But next morning I woke up with the same question: who is this person and what does she have to say?

She is Lou Ice, performance poet. And she has this need to express herself, talk about her obsessions, fears and other grievances ...

My stage persona Lou Ice was born in 2006, and I feel like a different person now, but I'm not yet prepared to just perform as Louise Halvardsson. I prefer to keep my performance identity and my novel writing/short story identity separated. Even though my poems are heavily autobiographical, I also make a lot of things up; I feel I can hide in Lou Ice.

I've never studied performance or had any official training, am one of those people who romanticise self-taught people, but I think I have a lot to learn. Saturday I watched the play Masterclass, about opera singer Maria Callas life and teaching. Time after time she told her students that they had to feel and see what they were singing about, and totally engage with their story. That's what I'm trying to do with my poetry, but it's very easy to get distracted by the audience and things happening in the room ...

Am reading a book at the moment called Find your voice by Joanna Crosse, and she recommends that you should look at the audience as one single person, so that every person listening feels as if you are talking to them alone.

Watch this space. Lou Ice is not dead yet!

Photo: Kristen Healy

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