Well. Things seem to be speeding up! We’ve had oh dear, what. Well, Sophie Mayer’s interview project has gone live. I Don’t Call Myself a Poet is a website that features interviews with impressively many poets, including moi. (I do call myself a poet, but only because it saves that aw-shucks blushing, foot-shuffling and explaining you have to do it you make a point of not.) The project originated in her teaching work; we were all interviewed by her students; and so it has a pedagogic as well as a public-resource aspect.
Free Verse book fair was splendid, with untold presses there, busy all day, two Poetry School workshops with Daljit Nagra and Nancy Campbell both sold out, and readings all day – including one with Glyn Maxwell, but I missed all the readings. I came away with a small number of small volumes: Geraldine Monk’s Salt collection of sonnets, Ghost & I, which I’ve wanted for ages. Donut Press’ selection from WS Graham,which ditto; four small books from A Midsummer Night’s Press, including a murder mystery in double dactyls.
While I was at Free Verse, the above picture arrived from Paris in my inbox – on my phone, such is the wonderment – from the poet Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, with a note saying she thought I’d like it. I do! It looks very pretty on the halls of Baroque, and very cosmopolitan.
On Sunday, to Canterbury and a sweet, pretty coffee shop called Brown’s Coffee House, by a tiny river with picturesque little footbridges over it, where I spoke and read for 45 minutes or so on a theme of ‘words’. It was appropriate. Aside from the above picture, words are all I have, &c, &c… It went well – given the choice between seeing the audience or seeing the poems I chose the poems, and wore my reading glasses, and did the 2012 thing of reading partly from memory, partly off the page, partly off the iPhone and partly from the laptop. They al seemed happy, and blurred, and I had some lovely chats with people afterwards who really got it. Not only that, but read some brand-new work. Hurrah.
And before that, met up with a poetry Facebook friend, Bethany Pope, for coffee in a beautiful little funky café garden, surrounded by green fronds and colours. And the back wall of it has wallpaper on it, and a copy of the Mona Lisa. But you are very much in a garden, and I got a leaf in my hair. Bethany’s poetry collection A Radiance is just out from the new press, Cultured Llama. Mathew Francis calls it ‘exhilarating’. Tiffany Atkinson says, ‘A sense of offbeat wonder at everyday miracles of survuval’; and Menna Elfyn says ‘stunning’. I’m looking forward to reading.
I was invited by the Wise Words festival, a new weekend-long event in Canterbury which will with luck happen again next year. The atmosphere was really lovely and laidback. After my event they had a screening of a movie about the Dalai Lama (always hard not to write Llama), in a field in a walled garden, by more little lovely footbridges, and it was powered by three people on bikes – just like in The Bed Sitting Room. (The trailer alas hasn’t got the bicycle in it, but they’ve taken the movie off YouTube. You can buy it now on DVD though; I would. I mean, I did.)
The Dalai Lama impressed me with his sheer hardworking trouperness, and the subtlety of many of his replies to people. I mean, deep understanding. You do wish sometimes that he’d go into more detail. It’s the Buddhist way, I suppose. But essentially, he is completely right. And very hardworking. (I have to say, though, the bit with Joanna Lumley lost me a bit…)
Also – really nice at long last to meet fellow Salt poet John Siddique, who introduced me. And yesterday, lunch in another beautiful garden (this time outside a Zizzi, in a 400-year-old building with ornate carved panelling) with Nancy Gaffield, whose CB Editions-published collection Tokaido Road is brilliant. Lots of news about Canterbury’s experimental-poetry scene, and plans to meet at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.
So WHEW! Life returns, it breaks through, it still exists.
Reading: mostly a cheap Kindle download of vol 1 of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End – but precious few pages – or, as Kindle delightfully has it, percentages – even of that. Some poetry. Nick Laird. William Letford. Getting ready for term to start.
‘Parade’s End’ on television, four novels condensed almost into one episode per novel, with some tricksy prismy sort of dated-looking camerawork; the director in an interview somewhere said it celebrates the fact that ‘Ford Madox Ford knew the Cubists!’. Swelling bonnet-drama music instead of the atonal stuff we’d expect if they really DID want to celebrate the cutting edge of Modernism. (The books weren’t even published till the 20s.) It’s very much trying to be ‘the thinking man’s [sic] Downton Abbey‘ at the same time as not giving you much to think about. Sweeping shots of the English countryside, and big ladies’ hats, interspersed with chopped up remnants of intelligently observed dialogue.You want to épater le bourgeois with something soft and fluffy.
Also, possibly because of the lack of time to explain, and partly because it’s Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead, but the character of Tiejens is being rather overtly Sherlockified; he just knows everything, without ever being told, and this is used to characterisation; in the book he’s told. I’ve been reading the book a bit.
We’ve had the new ‘Doctor Who’, but on TV Choice they had a whole series of Tom Baker’s Doctor, which I watched in one go with a friend (the same friend who wanted to watch the new one), and it was just ten times more intelligent, though less whizz-bang thrilling.
And why does the new assistant have to be so sexed up? Why is she sitting effectively in her own head looking as if she’s going for a night out? Well, I won’t ask. I never did run my response to Prometheus, did I. (I’ve got a few reviews and things nearly Ready to go. They took back seat to some proper, commissioned, ones.)
Then we’ve had, oh what have we had. I think that’s it for now. There is more, always so much more, ‘drunkenness of things being various’ etc… This is enough.