Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Other Room

Barely a week since my last post, and here I am again. What's going on?

Well, despite a summer cold (aren't they the worst?) I ventured out to the Other Room, a reading series in a pub behind Manchester University, last night. And very glad I am I went, though it's a shame that one of the readers, Philip Davenport, wasn't able to make it. The two other readers, Maggie O'Sullivan and Stuart Calton, were there however.

From what I've seen in anthologies, I haven't quite got Maggie O'Sullivan's work yet, but her performance last night went a long way towards me beginning to appreciate her work. It seems to straddle various strands of avant garde poetry. There's a large element of "radical pastoral" that one can see also in poets like Harriet Tarlo, Frances Presley and Geraldine Monk; but also a large element of pure sound in the work. It's interesting that the book of early work she brought with her was called "Body of Work", but it does have a very physical element to it; this is a poetry concerned as much with the physical articulation of sound as with "meaning." It seems to be to be very "instinctual"; as opposed to a more "calculated" approach. Which doesn't mean that there wasn't a very feirce intellect behind the words, because there certainly was. Although I don't want to make too obvious a connection, it's something I also find in poets such as Geraldine Monk and Micheal Haslam; although all of them have a strong intellectual basis for their work, there's something untamed about them, a kind of wandering spirit that seeks to go beneath the surface of the world and bring something elemental back.

Stuart Calton, on the other hand, seemed to be a much more calculated poet. The two long pieces he read were sometimes funny, very involved, fragmented narratives and arguments with a strong political bent. The second poem was about the Co-Op, in fact, which he is ambivalent about. Although this was very definitely non-mainstream, this was on the surface much more controlled and probably represents the more politically-charged end of the non-mainstream as represented most publically by Keston Sutherland, Andrea Brady and Barque Press. It was difficult to understand, but also fascinating, and I enjoyed his performance, especially the halting way he sometimes spoke half-phrases and sentences. I bought one of his pamphlets, so I can pore over it and seek a way through it.

All in all, a fascinating evening. The Other Room is a good series to have in Manchester; we've had so much mainstream poetry for years, it's good to have something rather stranger at last.