I had a terrific time at the Salt winter Party at Foyles last Thursday. Firstly, it was great to meet poets who I've admired for ages like David Grubb and John Hartley Williams. Secondly, it was great to meet and have a drink with that fine poet and controversialist, Jane Holland. It was even more amazing to actually meet Chris, after talking to him on the phone & e-mail corresponding so much. I got to meet my publisher!
The venue was slightly awkward - long rows of seats - but there were 200 people there to hear me read (next to last - the curse of having a name that at the back of the alphabet!) and I read two sonnets from the collection. I think there were some terrific writers there - Peter Jaegar and Sandra Tappenden among the poets, for instance. Gavin Salerie - who I met once at Geraldine Monk's party - said he liked my poems, which was a boost. It means so much more to me than if Andrew Motion had said he liked my poems. Though really I'd like everyone to like my stuff. I'm that shallow.
But I had a good time in London - and found a nice cheap place to eat in Old Compton Street in Soho - the Stockpot. Reasonable to good food, not showy, very quick turnaround and pleasant atmosphere. I went to Tate Modern, and was pleasantly surprised that a room full of Surrealist art had pictures by Tristram Hillier, Eileen Agar, Roland Penrose and Ithell Colloqhun as well as the usual names. English surrealism was often thought of in the past as not as good as the greats of the continent but I think it stands up very well.
I spent some time in the Poetry Library on the South Bank, discovering a terrific Nicholas Moore poem called Meaningless Gesture, that I must type up here soon.
On the Sunday, after having stopped off Saturday at Whatton, I was back in Manchester, and went to another poetry event, at Fuel in Withington. Well, there was some good stuff: John G Hall and Micheal Wilson in particular seemed to have real energy and above, a real love of language and what it can do. But Change Kunde was dispensing Good Advice when she wasn't trying to be terribly rude (God, how I hate that British seaside postcard innuendo about sex!), Matt Panesh was all shouty and un-PC in a terribly tired way, and there was so much obvious rhyme I wanted to scream. Oh, and Gordon Zola, who would have been a scream in music-hall in 1907, but just seems so old hat now.
The Salt event was great, because even when you weren't terribly turned on by what you heard (as I wasn't by a couple) at least you were aware that the writers were crafting their work, and weren't just in love with the sound of their own voices (you couldn't always hear them, in fact: bad sound system.)