Today, in the sweltering heat, Sir Paul the poet read to his largest audience to date at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival. He even wrote a special poem to mark the occasion:
"On hearing I was reading at Hay-on-Wye
My friends said, 'Hey, hey, hey!'
And I said, 'Wye, Wye, Wye!'"
After an introduction by his poet friend and editor, Adrian Mitchell, Sir Paul gave a wink to Heather Mills as he bounded on to the stage. Before turning the stage over to Sir Paul, however, Adrian Mitchell announced, "There's a girl here who's hitch-hiked all the way from Russia to see you." Immediately, Sir Paul spotted her in the audience, invited her to join him on the stage and embraced the 20-year-old student, Eugenie Evenko, while the crowd cheered. "I forgot everything. My Russian, my English. I couldn't speak. Before I came here, I hardly could dream even of seeing him. My mother thinks I am visiting friends near Moscow. I said I would be away for 20 days. When she finds out where I am, she's going to kill me."
Sir Paul then proceeded to spend the next 27 minutes reading 17 poems and lyrics from his poetry book, Blackbird Singing. He also introduced a new poem entitled State of Grace.
On stage, Sir Paul appeared relaxed, funny, self-deprecating, and almost surprised at the enhusiatic response his readings received from the crowd. "You are a great audience," he told them as every stanza he read was met with a roar of approval.
Sharing the stories behind his poems, Sir Paul fondly recalled meeting John for the first time:
"When I met John Lennon, I wasn't impressed with him, He smelt of beer [and Sir Paul thought] oh, you're just a bit vulgar."
He also confessed to stealing flowers for Linda from Queen Mary's rose garden in Regent's park, London while she was dying of cancer:
"I used to take one out of every flower bed, no one would ever notice . . . But then I got a letter from two ladies. Dear Sir Paul, We have seen you, and if you don't stop we're going to report you . .."
Sir Paul remarked that he was delighted that during Bill Clinton's Hay-on-Wye Saturday appearance at the festival, the former US president had referred to himself as just "the warm-up act to Paul McCartney." Sir Paul added "At least I was on time." (President Clinton had arrived at the festival 45 minutes late.)
At the end of the reading, the 1,300 member audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation before Sir Paul entertained their questions. He told the audience that he "enjoyed" reading his poetry although it was "very different to singing songs". And the critics? "The critics thought I shouldn't be allowed to do this kind of thing; I always get them, I don't know what it is about me." He hinted that his next project may involve photography after having taken some "good photographs" during a recent holiday in India.
Finally, as Sir Paul was given his white rose to mark the end of the event, the audience rose to give him a second standing ovation.
(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)
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