Friday, 5 December 2008

sonnets in space

In a recent public service email Harry Gilonis made a plea for all concerned to find their way to Roehampton University for the (second) launch-reading of The Reality Street Book of Sonnets. If Londoners in the avant scene found it difficult to get to an event in Battersea (as Harry noted ruefully) how on earth would they deal with a place somewhere to the south of Barnes overground station? Well, some of them made it to the Duchesne Building (opened in 2006 by Cherie Blair QC) and the volume was duly launched, albeit without copies of the item itself. The photos above show some of the participants before the reading started. The first includes an unknown photographer, John Gibbens, Tim Atkins, Harry Gilonis, Simon Smith, Richard Makin and unknown. The second features Richard Makin, Gavin Selerie, Keith Jebb, Jeff Hilson, Sophie Robinson and Peter Jaeger. We read in two brackets, this time in reverse chronology. First off Sophie Robinson, followed by Sean Bonney (who also read Stephen Rodefer), Jeff Hilson (Giles Goodland), Tim Atkins (Lisa Jarnot and Bernadette Mayer), Simon Smith (Peter Riley), Richard Makin, and Peter Jaeger (featuring fellow Canadian Paul Dutton). After a break came John Gibbens, Keith Jebb (Johan de Wit), Harry Gilonis (Kathleen Fraser, Elizabeth James and Maurice Scully), Gavin Selerie (Geraldine Monk) and myself (fellow Australian Michael Farrell). Jeff Hilson ended the evening with work by publisher Ken Edwards who was unaccountably delayed. There was indeed life in the sonnet, even if those at my end of the age spectrum come scarily close to the Bus Pass. The feeling of creeping age may well have been reinforced by a visit late in the afternoon to the V&A exhibition ‘Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970’. If you can remember serious talk about fallout shelters, this one’s for you. The exhibition tracks the course of Cold War rivalries through postwar anxiety, art in the service of capital (or Das Kapital), the competition to be modern, the art, architecture and cinema of fear, the space race, the use of new materials in fashion and the anti-authoritarian movements of the sixties. What seems irrecoverable from all this is the sense of utopia. Its absence induces a kind of nostalgia yet we know too much about it now to wish for its return.

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