Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Other Room

I went to a reading at The Old Abbey pub (now owned by the Kro chain, it appears.) There was Geraldine Monk, Alan Halsey and Tom Jencks. Geraldine read from Escafeld Hangings and some know "ghost sonnets"; Alan read some of his logoclastic, intertextual poems, including a wonderful variation on some of John Ashbery's poetry from A Tennis Court Oath. Tom Jencks read from his first book, A Priori, just published by ifpthenq - which also run a magazine of loose-leaf sheets in an envelope.

Maybe it's the presence of at least three creative writing courses in the area (Manchester, Manchester Met and Salford) - but there's an awful lot of poetic activity in Manchester at the moment, and quite a lot of it falls into that strange category, the non-mainstream. Tom Jencks himself writes a poetry that uses the language of science and the media, that plays with the conceptual nature of language in ways that make it almost unrecognisable as poetry to those for whom narrativity and shapely well-made shaggy dog stories are the essence of poetry.

There's obviously something in the water. Years ago, we had the conventional mainstream of Manchester Poets, and that was it. Harold Massingham led a course at the Extra Mural Dept of Man U, which I went to and it was good in its way. You couldn't find non-mainstream books anywhere, really. It's really making a difference to what's going on in Manchester. I hope it keeps up and doesn't go away as quickly as it came, as the magazine Mad Cow did about a decade ago.

I have a poem in the latest issue of parameter - which has had a radical makeover. The last issue was conventional A4 staple-stiched, but issue 5 came wrapped in silver foil, with four seperately stapled booklets, one for the editorial, one for poetry, one for fiction and one for reviews and articles. Gorgeous is the word, and with people like Rupert Loydell and Ron Padgett in it, well worth £2 of anyone's money.

It was a great evening, organised partly by a London group called Oppened and by people like James Davies and Scot Thurston. The next one is in June, I think, and I'm already looking forward to it.