Yesterday was the latest reading at The Other Room, with three very good performances from Susanna Gardner, Peter Manson and Nicole Mauro. After a previous week where I was performing three times, including once in a jazz band, it was a relief to sit back and watch for a change.
I have to confess that The Other Room is a kind of lifeline for me: in a city that seems at times to be dominated by performance poetry evenings, it's a real pleasure to go somewhere where the art of the bleeding obvious isn't constantly on display. And it continues: tonight at Fuel, Matt Dalby and Richard Barratt are hosting an evening involving Holly Pester and others. And then there's the if p then q launch later on this month.
Because I have friends who are very much in the performance or the mainstream scenes, I can't entirely divorce myself from those scenes; even if at times I get so frustrated with the whole thing that I go off on a massive grump about the whole thing. And many of them are good at what they do, seasoned performers or writers of well-crafted poems that might not break any boundaries but are good in themselves. There's a place for performance and a place for well-crafted mainstream poems. Just not anymore on my bookshelves, or in my head.
But it's complicated: I want to be nice to people, and sometimes I say things that make me sound terribly pompous and even elitist about poetry I don't really connect with. And I get frustrated that poet x is famous for nothing much (it seems to me) while poet y, who is actually extending the idea of what poetry can be, is languishing in obscurity. Elaine Randell, for instance, knocks the socks off Carol Ann Duffy. But who's famous?
I like adventure in writing. I like something that is at the edge of understanding, at the edge of acceptable, that makes me think, but that also takes an emotional risk. There aren't many mainstream poets who do that (Jane Holland manages it, for instance, but not Armitage.) I don't see the point in saying what's already been said in ways that have already been used.
Anyway, I've got a whole host of Dusie chapbooks to read, plus a couple of full length collections. So it should keep me satisfied for awhile. I'm off to Arran in two days time, for a week of R'n'R on an island with only two roads and a distillery.
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