Friday, May 15, 2009

Text Festival & Philip Davenport's About Everything

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.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Luareate

Some of the reaction to Carol Anne Duffy's appointment I find rather puzzling. Aside from the sexist and homophobic Daily Mail comments, I read on Tony Trehy's blog that some avant garde poets were angry about it. Why I have no idea. Avant garde poets were hardly likely to be in line for it, and most of them think it's irrelevant, so why do they care?

Personally, I'm pleased for her, and if anyone can do the job, she can. If it means that poetry gets a little more attention in the next ten years, and she manages to promote it a little out of some of its self-imposed ghettos, then good. She's not the best woman poet in the country, not when Geraldine Monk, Wendy Mulford, Carol Watts and a host of us are around; but the post has never been about "the best"; and it's never been about the adventureous edge of poetry either. It's pure establishement; and that's Ok.

Mostly, I'm going to ignore it, as I did with Andrew Motion's tenure. I'll get on with life; it's not worse getting hot under the collar about.