Friday, 29 October 2010

Friday, 22 October 2010

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Bloomsbury to Shoreditch

Tuesday night’s Blue Bus reading was a mixed bag though in all fairness I was only there for the first session. I have to say that I found fellow Australian Hazel Smith somewhat disappointing. The poems seemed to exist in a netherland between performance and the printed page. While this is never a problem with the great performers (in Australia I think of people like Pi O, Nigel Roberts and Joanne Burns) these pieces seemed at best like mildly confessional works at worst not engaging with language as other than a transparent bearer of information. Robert Sheppard who, by the way, is a terrific performer, read new work including a section from his Knives Forks and Spoons Press book The Given. This book makes use of old diary entries, restructuring them so that one section (for example) consists only of questions, another of material written only in May. Though this may seem a fairly rigid schema it came across as quite lively. Sheppard read a section that was a kind of inverse Joe Brainard ‘I remember’ poem. In this case what was listed were the things noted in the diaries that he couldn’t remember.

Wednesday night’s Crossing the Line reading was the first I’ve attended at the new venue: the William IV pub near Old Street tube. The readers were Susana Gardner, over from Switzerland, Simon Smith and myself. I’d feared a low turnout, especially since the reading coincided with a talk by Allen Fisher elsewhere, but the upstairs room was full. Simon Smith read from his new Salt volume London Bridge. I’d not heard Susana Gardner read before but she was impressive. All in all a great reading to have been part of.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

the right stuff

For a brief three days the pottery of Tony Ross-Gower was on display at Faversham’s Creek Creative studios. Remarkably this was his first show (he has been throwing pots for some 37 years). It was an impressive and enjoyable show. Ross-Gower notes his indebtedness to the studios of Bernard Leach and Hamada Shoji and this is apparent in the work. But with pottery the obsession with ‘originality’ is of far less importance than the ‘right feel’ of the work (would that some of the other arts took this aboard).

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

old hat speaks

One of John Latta’s posts from last month offered the glimpse of a world where Jack Spicer may have had a more benign input than Charles Olson. It had me thinking once more about the ways we learn to write poems in a world of shifting directives. When I began to write, my models were blundered into, more or less. They were an often conflicting set of sources and I was naive enough not to perceive or at least to worry about this. Once I began to read Ezra Pound everything changed. My poetic was informed by reading lists, with ‘dos and don’ts’. To some extent Charles Olson’s example confirmed this process. Of course it is very attractive for a young writer to have things so mapped out, and it is undoubtedly educative, but ultimately it may lead to a dead-end. The law-giving poets remain great but their greatness resides in their idiosyncrasies, not in any reproducible formulae. I’d honour Basil Bunting’s self-description as a ‘minor poet not conspicuously dishonest’. It’s the best we can aspire to (though the older BB nonetheless developed a liking for cup-bearing female adolescents).

The head honchos of Langpo behave as though a dictatorial modernism were still available, yet the language of the ‘post-avant’ often has another edge to it. In its rhetoric of constant innovation it resembles nothing more than the ethos of late capitalism, where redundancy has no connection with utility. The new model is good just because it is the new model. All else is consigned to oblivion. Looked at from this angle, Ron Silliman’s poetics resemble the reductive path pursued by Clement Greenberg (What baby? What bathwater? What bathtub?). Significantly the lawmakers of the ‘post-avant’ world tend to be men. These oligarchs present themselves as outsiders while exercising a considerable institutional power which is tenaciously and constantly affirmed. They must live with their own fears of redundancy I guess. At least I hope they do, otherwise they’d be Stalinists.

the season begins

Last night’s reading at the Swedenborg Hall demonstrated two distinct styles of presentation. Adrian Clarke rocked back and forward as many of the poets I’ve seen who have had connections with Bob Cobbing’s Writers Forum tend to do. Peter Riley stood still. You could characterise this as a ‘Cambridge’ position though I don’t think Peter would be altogether happy with that. It did mean that he was easier to photograph. My camera suffers from a slight delay when using the flash and Adrian almost always managed to duck behind Colin Still's recording mikes at the wrong time.

It was the first Shearsman post-summer reading and a fine one. Adrian Clarke read from Eurochants: dense, fast-moving poems with many voices. Peter Riley read from The Derbyshire Poems, a book that brings together three collections from the seventies and early eighties together with two essays written in the same period as glosses more or less. I’ve had Lines on the Liver (Ferry Press) and Tracks and Mineshafts (Grosseteste) since 1985 when I picked them up at Melbourne’s Collected Works bookshop. The other materials would have been harder to come by but now we have the whole sequence available.