Random readings: a party game

Drawing of 6 people at dinner, one reading from "How To Be Old" poetry book

Party game: random readings round the dinner table

A new party game—random readings—was invented the other night at a long-delayed dinner party. The purpose of the dinner was to celebrate my 80th birthday, which  actually fell four months ago, pre-lockdown.

Anyway, so simple, so much fun! Each of us opened How To Be Old at random and read aloud the first poem they saw. For most of the readings we were in fits of laughter—so true or untrue, so appropriate or madly inappropriate to the reader did the poems seem. And each one generated lots of talk. Venting. Joking. Remembering.

You can do this too, it’s so easy. But it only worked because most the poems in How To Be Old are very direct and easy to understand and easy easy easy to read aloud. It would not work with any of my previous collections, where the poems are often rather complex and subtle. How To Be Old is not subtle.

Some tips for reading these poems aloud: let the words do the work. Don’t “act” and specially don’t overact. Just read them, not too fast.

There! have fun with this easy party game around the dinner table. All you need is How To Be Old or another similar collection of poems.

Oh, wait. I can’t think of similar collections but they must exist.

I’m feeling better after a week under the weather and I’m off to the gym. Gosh that feels good.

8 thoughts on “Random readings: a party game

  1. What a fabulous idea and a great way to celebrate both you and your poems. Your zest for life keeps on coming. (Applause). Looking forward to a ‘launch’……??

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, a launch. Unity Books Wellington, 12:30 on 21 July. See you there!

  2. JT Twissel says:

    I’m a firm believer that a birthday can be celebrated any time of year friends are together.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:


  3. I wonder if subtlety and complexity are irrelevant as we get older. Or are simplicity and directness subtly complex?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      They increase with age, I think. But our repertoire expands so we can choose when to be subtle and when to just slam down the truth.

  4. srbottch says:

    Hope you had a good workout which consists of …what? And happy belated birthday!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Pilates with our beloved teacher Nellie. Was so good

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