Do you ever get pulverized by the onslaught of social media and its talented way with making you feel small? I certainly do – because there’s so many excitable writers on Twitter just now that a Damien-Hirst multi-layered blatter effect happens as soon as I turn my screen on. And of course, it seems that everyone has something to promote, a new book or a series of events or summat, and I’m quite put out. Where do they find the time? Haven’t they got jobs or families? Why is their level of confidence so massive compared with the 40 watt bulb version I seem to have? Why do they have an army of associates cheering them on when I couldn’t even tell my mates at work that I’m a poet? And so on. Clearly, Twitter is bad for my health as well as my data allowance.
There’s a verse fest in my town this week, so I went along to a masterclass by a prominent male poet. Now, when I see the word masterclass, I expect some kind of class taught by a master – perhaps I’m influenced by ideas of painting demos, musicians sitting in a line with their instruments, or – yes, even a supercool poet sharing drafts and ‘what not to do’. Sadly, this guy thought a masterclass was 1.75 hours of talking about himself, with a high namedrop percentage and the special places he’s been now he’s at the top. I’m glad for the guy, I love it when writers are big news – but I’d paid £10 for that, and I could have found the same information on Wikithingi for nowt. The atmosphere in the room went strangely off-kilter as several audience members began to question his rationale for the sort of event he was giving us; and I could see the unease in the poet, who’d realised that yes, maybe he should have drawn up a plan before he started to walk onstage, and yes, maybe it is a bad idea to think that any old sentence is a pearl of wisdom because it is said by himself. All I learnt from this ‘masterclass’ was: a) write a plan, you idiot, and b) if you think you can get away with it, you can’t. An audience deserves what is written on the ticket, and if the performer isn’t prepared to deliver it, arts managers should look elsewhere.