At the reading by Anthony Wilson

At the reading

I get to the reading on time.

I find a place near the front, so I can get to the stage without having to clamber over people. I introduce myself to the venue staff and go in search of a drink.

I am not nervous. I have done this before. I have rehearsed, to an empty room. I have timed myself. I have prepared a set list, which I secretly check I still have.
No one comes up to me. I sit in silence, with my drink and my books. I am ready.




An old friend is at the reading. We have not seen each other for a long time. I did not know they were coming to the reading.

There is so much to catch up on! We go to get a drink.
I want to be in a place of silence. Instead I am doing this.


. . . I wasn’t always—


In ten minutes I will be giving my reading.

Secretly I want to be elsewhere, backstage ideally (there isn’t one), or at home, under my duvet.

I notice I am doing a lot of laughing. Words seem to be pouring out of me, filling up the space, using up oxygen.

I am not in love with myself. Even though I have done this before, I am extremely nervous.
I have left my set list at home.


I have left my set list at home.

But it doesn’t matter! The crowd are loving me. They laugh in places where I did not know there were any. I love it.
For an unrehearsed reading, it is going pretty well. Perfectly, even.

I open my mouth and great wit is to be heard in the proximity of my words.
But I am reading —I have read— without love. For myself, or for my audience.
I have heard their laughter, but I have not listened to them. . .
I cannot even hear myself.


I do love giving readings.
I also love silence.


Sometimes, I wish I


A man I do not know speaks to me after the reading.
A woman I do not know speaks to me before the reading.
The man gives me a sheaf of poems.
The woman tells me she has cancer.


I am flowing urbanely from anecdote to poem to applause.
It is a great reading.
No one knows how terribly it is going except me.


I am reading out of my skin. There are four people in the audience.


I leave the venue.
On my way out, a poster for the reading catches my eye.
My name is there, in small lettering.

I wonder which Anthony Wilson gave tonight’s reading, the one on the poster, the one who is leaving, or the one who I will find at home waiting for me.


As I return to my chair, it is everything I can do not to throw up.


My fellow-readers are amazing.
Each of them reads beautifully, with grace and kindness, out of a place of silence.
I am humbled even to know them.


I return home

. . .


The perfect poem

You can find this poem on Anthony Wilson’s blog at

And this morning he posted this poem:

I Am Not I

I am not I.

I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.

Juan Ramón Jiménez, “‘I Am Not I’” from Lorca and Jiménez: Selected Poems.

Translated by Robert Bly

Lorca and Jimenez: Selected Poems (Beacon Press, 1973)


About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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