Firstly, more poetry church: I went to the poetry picnic at Linda Chase's place, and helped out on the bookstall. Carol Ann Duffy read to a rapt crowd, and it reminded me of a tent crusade. The poetry? Well, it was OK. Then they sold one of her manuscripts, a handwritten poem, in the auction, and I was thinking: Piece of the True Cross.
Still, it was a good sunny day and I had strawberries, and bought a book about the New York East Village poetry scene in the '60's that was worth having.
The readings at the Independent Book Fair were less reverent, but with Gerry Potter as (very able) compere it did feel a bit like Old Time Religion still. I got the chance to read, and went all pantomime by getting the audience to join in a fairly surrealist poem about Arran. Sneaking a bit of the avant-garde under the radar, I feel. I met some interesting people, including Marvin Cheeseman, who actually told me he wasn't really a poet. Funny, his poems always sound like poetry to me. Maybe a bit further along the line towards "I wish I'd looked after me teeth" poetry than me, but it's still poetry. Poetry goes from "but that's not poetry" wild experimentalism (Paula Claire, Bob Cobbing etc...) to music hall verse, in my book; and if I prefer one to the other, then that doesn't mean that poets who entertain the public with cheesy rhymes should feel that they're not really poets.
Which probably means that I find the sometimes sniffy comments about mainstream poetry that I'm often guilty of making myself somewhat unfortunate. Not that I'm about to praise the latest Simon Armitage, mind. I'll still find it dull and unimaginative. But sometimes, when I'm in a generous mood, I can admit he has his place. The same is true of Pam Ayres, though: personally, it makes me squirm, but plenty of people enjoy it. It's not great literature, though.
If this blog is coming across as a little bi-polar, perhaps that's how it should be. I have my preferences, and my "can't stand's", and I like to think that I know what I'm talking about. But I don't believe in being precious about it either. Poetry is a wide church. Not that it excuses boredom: and if something bores you, just walk away.
MY FRIEND, MARTIN PENNY, RETIRES
4 days ago