The second Bury Text Festival is well underway, with an interesting exhibition that at the Art Gallery. I went to the reading for the Bury Poems, where Philip Davenport read from his spell-binding new long poem About Everything, which mixes news reportage with photograph in a dazzling display of collage poetry. In many ways, it's a marvelously polyvalent poem, which can be read in several different ways, so that meanings shift and slide like continental plates underfoot.
But if I have a cavil, it is that it seems a little cold and distant at times; and perhaps reflects a bias towards minimalism in the festival itself. The works are all good, technically polished pieces; and I enjoyed the exhibition. But it rather lacked a little "wildness." Actually, my favourite piece that I say that day was Stuart Pickard's neon tube version of Darwin's Evolution tree sketch from his notebooks. I'm a sucker for anything Darwinian anyway.
I liked the way Philip's poems keep inserting a square box which, when he read from it, he read as nothing. As if all communication is miscommunication and everything amounts to nothing in the end. If there's a like of wildness in the poem, there's also an acceptance of that nothing.
The Bury poems reading was actually stunning. Geoff Huth and Matt Dalby have already blogged about it; but my personal favourite was the poems of Carol Watts. There, I think, is a poet who actually doesn't seem scared of emotions; the poem she read about her "Roy Orbison phobia", with its repeated references to American iconography, was spellbinding, as well as being properly challenging and "post-avant."
They all took themselves very seriously, though. It was lightened somewhat by Tony Lopez photographing the audience, but apart from that, they hardly cracked a smile. Do post-avants have to be so serious all the time? That's why I always prefered New York to Black Mountain or Objectivist: they didn't take themselves too seriously. Jokes are Ok in poems as well as philosophy, you know.