I am not a fan of poetry. The decision to attend an event that was not only a reading of poetry, but poetry set to music, was not mine. Subsequently, I was not looking forward to spending a wet and grey afternoon listening to a genre towards which I had an aversion, accompanied by a guitar. However, the old and very clichéd proverb of the book and the cover proved to be a relevant piece of advice on this occasion.
The venue was not packed, however this seemed to be more a consequence of the inclement weather than a lack of interest in the event. Those that were present gravitated towards the stage, giving the entire event a very cosy, almost “coffee shop” feel. Andrew Greig warmly greeted the audience and briefly introduced himself and Jim Hutcheson. Although he had a new book to sell, Greig chose instead to begin his performance with work from his previous collection Getting Higher.
This was a stroke of genius on his part, as my attention was captured by a subject I was very interested in – mountain climbing. The collection dealt with Greig’s experiences of climbing in both the Scottish Highlands and the Himalayas and was illustrated by Hutcheson. Their performance of these poems was transportative. With Greig’s clear voice song and speech – and Hutcheson’s gentle rhythms, I found myself so swept up in their performance that I forgot this was a genre I didn’t care for. ‘Mal’s Song’ an elegy written in remembrance of Greig’s friend and fellow climber, Malcolm Duff, stayed with me long after the event finished.
Greig’s latest work, Found at Sea, was written about a sailing journey he made from Stromness to Cava – a trip completed despite having no previous sailing experience. The collection inspired by this experience, which Greig by his own admission proclaimed to be not hugely “special”, is beautiful and makes reference to this journey being a metaphor for life, and the fact that “where you’re going is not where you’re heading, where you’re looking is not where you’re at”.
Andrew Greig and Jim Hutcheson have been peforming together for thirty years. Throughout this entire performance their friendship and ease with each other was clear to see, and this made the event that much more enjoyable. For someone who had not relished the thought of attending this performance I was surprised that I could only find two small downsides to this event – that there was no immediate Q&A with the audience, hat I find myself unable to read Greig’s work without humming along to the pieces they performed!