My, my, and only part way in to a fully-booked poetry fortnight...
Tuesday was a sweaty workshop after a busy day working in a sixth floor greenhouse that grows books and books. I was introduced to some mind-bending new stuff by a UCL alumnus, a tour de force of a young poet who has a voice I would love to hear read the shipping forecast, or even the dictionary. A John Ashbury opening, then Timothy Donnelly* providing the delicious meat of the language sandwich, and finishing with an ekphrastic poem by Brenda Shaughnessy...
Would I dance with you? Both forever and rather die.
It would be like dying, yes. Yes I would.
Then off to the post-workshop pub, where I chatted about the Unthanks with the girl who had charted the whole of the folk music movement, plotting it along her bedroom wall. I admitted my poet girl-crush, and listened to Kelly Clarkson belting out a song I seemed to know the words to.
Wednesday saw the Eric Gregory Award winners reading at the Betsey Trotwood, a favourite old ale pub that draws in poets. I bumped into the tiny oh-so-connected online magazine editor who studies T. S. Eliot and Renaissance drama at PhD level, who is the girl who published me first (the poem of he previous post...ahem) and who loves Barbara Trapido as much as I do and will get to chat to Zadie Smith any day. Roddy Lumsden, our host, was chuffed, nay - made up!, over a Scot winning the prize for the first time in seventeen long years. The two toasted this with scotch just before the wee poet had to read his set. One winner had just got back from his honeymoon, and two others are engaged. Everybody is getting married. The Scot is tying the knot in three weeks which has brought about a bout of death poems. I sat with a short American with a trust fund who flies from programme to programme (literature, painting, poetry), country to country, and said he'd take me to New York in his suitcase. I think he curls his eyelashes. He recently broke off his engagement to a girl who was at least a foot taller than him. They had been seeing each other for seven years. He gave her New York; he has the rest of the world (though he hates Paris, thinking it barbaric. Apparently there is more culture in Cornwall). He never reads his poetry out to anyone, and he doesn't want to publish anymore. He claims to have no ambition. He is on an endless quest for beauty, seeking all things beautiful. He effused that men are wholly inferior; all he does is to worship women. As we parted, he told me he'll see me in heaven. Or hell.
Then it was a Thursday ZINE launch. The zine is a visual masterpiece, in colour or black and white or any way one cares to eat it up. We sellotaped poppies into the introduction; they are now caught between pages and re-printed over and over. Familiar faces read, and the beautiful tattooed lesbian rapped in a knowing middle-class way that blurted quite beautifully. A cold pint, free of charge and all the more satisfying for it, kicked off the evening.
He had the final lines of Dover Beach running through his head all yesterday, as I had a book drop down on my head. My face is now scarred by book spine. Today I drank hot chocolate and tried not to cry as I read of Elizabeth Barrett Browning dying in Robert's arms.
...from Browning some 'Pomegranate', which, if cut deep down the middle,
Shows a heart within blood-tinctured, of a veined humanity.
* By God, 'Pansies Under Monkshood: A Folly' is the biggest treat. the moist / rot monitored with heart... And the most intelligent thing - you don't even realise it's ABABABCC. Then you spy it, and are like 'Whoooaaah!'.