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This report is taken from PN Review 258, Volume 47 Number 4, March - April 2021.

Zoom’s the Ticket Caroline Clark
The excitement or willingness with which you might sign up for a Zoom reading surely depends on your personal circumstances. For me, it’s such a rare thing to be able to attend a reading, I’m with the more willing. As I wait to be let into the ‘meeting’ it all comes back to me: the joy of culture in the present moment. No fast-forwarding, no pause button.

Once in, depending on the set-up, you may see the other attendees’ screens flicking on – either as a black space, if they don’t have their video on, or with their faces and backgrounds visible. Carcanet’s readings don’t reveal the other attendees or show their screens, but we are told there’s time at the start to use the ‘chat’ function to ‘say hello’. I stay silent but am interested to see so-and-so’s there. What does it mean to reveal myself here and say hello? I’m overthinking this. I have not developed Zoom social skills yet. I am a hermit in from the cold. I will need to learn how to behave myself. Wow – there are people here from all over the world. Wow – I am seeing faces/names of people who have only ever existed in contents pages. I really should stay silent. In fact, we all stay silent. Good Zoom housekeeping rule no. 1: mute the attendees (or get them to mute themselves, depending on format). Are we viewers, participants or the audience? One reader at a Russian poetry event attempts to formalise the relationship, telling us: you are the voyeur. But theory ...

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