Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shearsman reading, London: Robert Sheppard, Philip Kuhn.

First up, Philip Kuhn, who who publishes hand-crafted books and runs poetry readings at his home in Devon. I didn't know his poetry before, but enjoyed his reading; the poetry is one of Jewish identity and spirituality, which draws on the sacred texts of Judaism, and is densely-textured and allusive. Highly unfashionable, but none the worse for that. The work lent itself well to reading aloud, and Kuhn's measured pace brought out the musical aspects of the text.

Next, Robert Sheppard, reading from his new Shearsman book "Warrant Error" (that's "war on terror". ed.), a series of 100 sonnets culled from the public rhetoric and private fears of the post-9/11 world. Sheppard was how I imagined him to be: bullish and energetic, with a booming voice, and a reading style that mixed registers and emphasised phrases with jerky movements and fidgety energy. I'd bought the book and read some of the sonnets as I listened, which I don't normally do, but felt I needed some anchoring as the unstable and disjunctive text was hard to grasp at first listening. Great stuff, very enlivening.

I chatted to Laurie Duggan and Frances Presley at the break, and afterwards Tony Frazer went to a restaurant and assorted others went to a pub. I, by some misunderstanding, did both, so was lucky enough to chat to Tony over a meal and Philip Kuhn over a beer.

6am the next morning, when I got up for work, was painful, but it worth it.

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