Melissa and Michelle turned to walk towards their bus and I cried. A week of being in the same place as two dear friends - the friendship spans 25 years - after six months separated by half the world because I followed a dream. A whole week. We hugged, we laughed, we talked and talked and sat together in silence, we visited castles and a palace, ate and drank and walked and walked and walked. Bliss. And I was fine, happy, content, apparently not affected by this being the last morning, by our walking to bus stops, mine for work, theirs for the airport, our walking towards goodbye. Until we said goodbye.
At the corner of the Princes Street Gardens, waiting for my bus, I let the tears wet my cheeks, and watched for the moment their bus drove them away. Tears fell again receiving a text message apology for the tears that had started it all, and a message of love, gratitude and encouragement for the one left behind, so far away from home.
That the rest of the day was full of work and writing and poetry and Edinburgh friends staved off wallowing in self-pity, which would have been far less interesting to write about.
The poetry last night was the usual blend of surprising, varied, engaging and even a little bit awkward in the two open mic sessions. My own performance was below par - perhaps the tiredness after a week of hosting visitors, or the subject matter of self-conscious writing about the writer's life. Whatever it was, my voice was not strong, nor loud, for the first two poems, and I stumbled over too little rehearsed lines. So I was a bit disappointed with the performance. I don't think I've presented my best here yet, or not often. What is it I am waiting for? Better knowledge of my audience? Bigger audience? An invitation to speak? I don't know. The third of the poems went over a little better, and one of the other poets interrupted our conversation on the way out at the end of the night to say she had enjoyed my poetry.
I still struggle with my own expectations of myself as poet and my place in the community in that role. I see some poets' poems shared by their readers, and wonder why mine seem to be appreciated by a few, but are apparently not making enough of an impact to be much shared about in social media like other poets' work. Do I want too much? Perhaps. Or perhaps I am just another uncertain artist who doubts her gift and ability when the applause is not as loud as I had hoped.
The feature poet was engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking. With both ingredients of well-formed and well-performed in her poems, her voice had a blend of natural conversation and poetic performance. I appreciated her lack of self-conscious pretentiousness, even as she spoke poems of self-awareness as a poet, a woman, experiencing growing pains. Hers was not the shouty style of spoken word or performance poetry, nor did it adhere to the strict forms that become restrictive in the hands of many: it gently used, adapted, and ignored spoken word conventions as this poet, Iona Lee, demonstrated her confident trust in her own voice, and held her audience safely in the space it created.
Lou and Tim ran for their bus as I turned in the direction of my flat and I smiled an expression of deep gratitude, for the week that was, the evening just ending, for poetry, artistry and dreams; and for friends old and new.