An exceptionally warm sun, only a slight breeze. Just the day for relaxing in the garden - or being more active if you like a neat garden. Maybe have a family day out to the park. A talk on poetry at the local library? At 2pm on a Saturday? Surely no one would turn up to that! It would be embarrassingly sparse and a total waste of time and money spent in the organisation of such.
Well, if that’s your opinion then you weren’t in the audience of some 45 people at Dalmuir Library at 2pm on Saturday, 14th May.
A brief introduction, almost a eulogy (intended in its first meaning of praise!), by Donny O’Rourke, Reading Champion, in which he stated the speaker, Des Dillon, wrote in many genres but would be concentrating on his poetry at this event. It was obvious that Mr O’Rourke, no mean poet himself, thought very highly of this man.
Mr Dillon began by stating that everyone had stories to tell, emphasising the importance of story-telling in a child’s life. He considered himself fortunate to grow up in an Irish-Catholic culture in which story-telling played a great part. Less than two minutes in and already you could sense an instant rapport between this speaker and the audience. Je ne sais quoi but it was there.
He then began the first session of poetry reading, all based on his life. The first poem combined religious imagery with the memory of a brother who began drinking at the age of 12 and died young as a result of alcohol. Further poems followed in the same vein - society making judgements, alcohol and fame - all equally moving. I could list all the poems he read but would strongly urge anyone reading this review (I believe my audience has now reached double figures) should buy one of his anthologies. We then had a break from the poems for Des and Donny to have an open conversation about reading in its widest sense. It was interesting just to listen but the audience soon joined in and ‘questions’ became part of the conversation. That’s how relaxed the atmosphere was. What did I say about rapport? You didn’t feel he was performing for an audience but sharing.
Two quotes stick in my mind which I would like to share with writers.
‘Life is his literature’. (Donny of Des)
‘Life tells you all you need to know about writing.’ (Des)
And writers might want to consider some implicit advice when Des told us his first book had been rejected by 57 publishers before he finally accepted that the reason for all these rejections was that it was sh--e!
Parts of the event were displays of fervency about Des’ personal beliefs and comments on the social system. I identified with many of his comments on the latter, how inhibiting and divisive it can be. You may not have agreed with his politics but you couldn’t deny his passion. And passion is what permeated every poem he shared with us, the passion continued with his final readings which were all to his wife. Every one of them was imbued with passion, this time the passion of a deep, enduring love and respect.
I am reading more of his poems and continuing the pleasure of that visit to Dalmuir.