Two events yesterday raised my hopes and my enthusiasm for poetry. The first of these was a belated visit to the V&A exhibition, ‘Certain Trees: The constructed book, poem and object 1964-2006’. While the brief for this show might seem impossibly broad the work on display seemed more like a kind of interlocking ‘family’ thing. Simon Cutts (whose ‘no ideas but in things’, 2002, appears above) was responsible for putting the show together. He has himself worked for years across several disciplines (the Jargon Society did his wonderful book Pianostool Footnotes in 1982). The show includes work by sixteen people, including Thomas A Clark and Laurie Clark, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Robert Lax, Stuart Mills, Erica Van Horn, and Cutts himself, with a catalogue introduction by another of the participants, John Bevis, and an afterword by Harry Gilonis. As Bevis notes, the ‘cultural eclecticism’ on display here comes from a sense ‘that the thing one trusts to be true has to be met wherever it may be found’. What is apparent is that the book shouldn’t be viewed as a transparent bearer of the words within. It is a kind of matrix that determines through its colour, shape, texture, and the care (or lack of it) that went into its production (it seems significant in this light that major publishers often produce a poet’s selected or collected work on paper that goes brown in a matter of months).
The second event was the evening reading upstairs at The Lamb, Bloomsbury, in the Blue Bus series. This consisted of individual and collaborative work by Holly Pester, James Wilkes, and Abi Oborne. These younger poets performed inventive, engaging work that seemed a far cry from what you come to expect of so many writing school graduates. The three made use of acoustics, amplification, theatre and a sense of the audience that was unpretentious and involving. I had to leave before the very end that was to have involved Abi Oborne cooking an ox tongue (she is, by day or night, a professional chef). I hope it was no problem for Health and Safety.