This week saw two excellent readings at the Flying Goose. On Tuesday, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Andy Croft, N.S. Thompson, Mike Wilson gave an entertaining reading, with plenty of good left-wing politics. Thursday was even better, and featured Alan Dent, Vassilis Pavlides and Andrew Sant. Pavlides was an excellent reader, and read poems by Cavafy and Seferis with the opening lines in Greek. Dent read poems in French by Aragon, Prevert and Francis Combes, then read in English for his second set. Poltics was well in evidence here too, with Pavlides discussing Greek politics and its effects on poetry, and Dent talking about communism and French poetry. Australian Andrew Sant was witty and engaging, and all-in-all, it was a great evening.
There is a Facebook page for the festival, it's here.
...but can you judge it by its title? This question occurred to me at a reading in a library in Nottingham at the weekend. On a table arrayed with poetry books - presumably for National Poetry Day - I spotted "Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes" by the feted American poet Billy Collins. Would the contents of the book be as crass as the title, I wondered? I'll never know, as I've read enough of Collins' poetry not to want to subject myself to any more, but I could guess. I can understand why Collins would wish to associate himself with Dickinson, as her poetry scaled the very summit of poetic achievement, while his saunters around the base of the foothills glancing longingly but ironically at the heights. The title of the book foregrounds Dickinson's assumed lack of sexual experience, contrasting it with Collins' own (presumably) ampler knowledge, and implying that what that buttoned-up spinster needed was a man like him to... it also implies that Collins is generally more sophisticated, not just sexually, but poetically and personally. I reflected, on the bus home after the reading, that although the title of Collins' book is smart-arse, supercilious, sexist and presumptious, it's main attribute is in fact vanity. I further mused on the notion that there is perhaps no person in the world as vain as a writer who, at some profound level, is compensating for the yawning gap between his public recognition and his actual achievement; the opposite in fact, of what Dickinson experienced during her lifetime.
This blog has been scant lately, as I've been working hard at earning a living, and travelling around - London, Prague, Bracknell. Last Thursday I met Ernesto Priego for the first time in London. We found a pub which I swear I haven't been in for about 20 years - 'The Hole in the Wall' under the railway arches opposite Waterloo station. I'm glad to report it hasn't changed a bit, and still serves Young's bitter. Not only is Ernesto an erudite scholar and a fine multi-lingual poet, but - even more impressively - he's also a member of the Campaign for Real Ale. I hope to introduce him to the delights of the Castle Rock brewery when he visits Nottingham in a couple of weeks.
Click here for details of how to acquire this book. This is a sequence of poems on contemporary Mexico through the voice of a Mexican living abroad, a commentary on Octavio Paz's chapter 'The Present Day' in 'The Labyrinth of Solitude' and a meditation on the passage of time and the ways in which it's viewed differently in different cultures. The writer lives in London, and the poems reference his beloved English literature, including Dickens and Shakespeare. Don't expect an easy read - it requires work from the reader - but equally, don't expect impenetrability; Priego writes an English - though some short passages are in Spanish - of remarkable simplicity and clarity.
Here's what Ed Baker had to say on reading this book:
"I wasn't sure what to expect especially after first (re) reading Paz's The Present Day chapter out of The Labyrinth of Solitude... thought/feared, maybe, trickery and gimmickery
but was pleasantly surprised... Ernesto's humanity shines through
I appreciate the form that these pieces have taken and the absence of (most) punctuation
he lets the lines do their own "punctuate" breathing where 'things' work ... they REALLY do their job
I like his method.... needs be that a few of the pieces have several images competing unnecessarily nothing major to detract fr4om his thrusts
I ain't no critic.... the entire book held my attention... and I read it straight through without a single pee-break!
I also think that production-wise this is a clean presentation/print job. Good type-font selection..."
I founded Leafe Press in 2000 and am now co-editor. I've edited Litter magazine since 2005. I was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and I live in Nottingham.
My most recent book is "Variations on Painting a Room: Poems 2000-2010" from Skysill Press. I've also published this translation: Yves Bonnefoy, "Début et Fin de la Neige/The Beginning and End of the Snow" (Leafe/Bamboo Books).