Thursday, 22 December 2011
I’ve missed the last two Crossing the Line readings but caught the last for the year at The Apple Tree on Wednesday. The readers were Lucy Harvest Clarke who read from Silveronda (if p then q, 2009) and from work forthcoming from Knives, Forks & Spoons press. Martin Corless-Smith, visiting from Idaho, read from English Fragments: A Brief History of the Soul (Fence Books, 2010) and a more recent book of ‘Roman’ and ‘Russian’ poems. Jeff Hilson is now filming as well as recording these readings. Fortunately there was enough extension lead to reach the solitary outlet. The mince pies came courtesy of a well-known supermarket chain.
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
It’s a little late for Christmas shopping but it’s not too late to pick up a copy of this fine record of two events. Gavin Selerie’s Performance-Texts consists of two CDs, the first containing a seventy-six minute presentation of Strip Signals dating from July 1986; the second, dating from April 2010 has eighteen minutes of work from Music’s Duel and Le Fanu’s Ghost (there is only a short extract from Strip Signals in Music’s Duel: New and Selected Poems, Shearsman 2009, though the full text will be republished before too long (the original came out with Galloping Dog Press in 1986). This extant prose piece gives only a taste of the full sequence, nor does it hint on the page of what is made of it with several voices and the instruments at the London Musicians Collective venue, NW1 (this ad hoc group assembled by Selerie includes two members of British Summer Time Ends). Fleshed out by these musicians the work becomes a virtual mini-opera. As well as being a primary voice (speaking and singing) Selerie plays guitar and percussion together with Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Bob Cobbing and Petra Goltz-Cofhani (voices), and Clive Bell, Stuart Jones, Sue Ferrar and Goltz-Cofhani (on flute, rattle, accordion, cello, violin and triangle). Strip Signals is a finely paced work in which the languages of memoir, case notes, computer and technical jargon, bureaucracy and politics are balanced against each other seamlessly. The second disc features Selerie and Vahni Capildeo (voices) and Trish Elphinstone, Bruno Guastalla and Chris Stubbs (soprano sax, cello and percussion). ‘De Luce’ comes from Selerie’s early book Azimuth (Binnacle Press, 1984) but is available in the Selected Poems. The other tracks, ‘Faded Novel’, ‘Ghost Workshop’, ‘Lyceum Double’ and ‘Riverrun’ come from Le Fanu’s Ghost, Selerie’s remarkable (and beautiful) book from Five Seasons Press (2006). The acoustics are well captured in both performances. No small part of this is due to the fact that Selerie is a superb reader and performer for whom clarity of presentation is always important. The CD set is limited to fifty copies. These are available for £10 plus £2 (UK postage) at 1a Astley Avenue, London NW2 4AD. Cheques can be made out to ‘Binnacle Press’.
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Last night’s Shearsman reading, the last for the year, featured Anna Reckin and Richard Berengarten. Reckin’s Three Reds is a fine first book with an objectivist’s sense of space and sound. Berengarten’s much longer career includes work published as Richard Burns. He read the beginning and end of a long section from one of the books of the Balkan Trilogy: Under Balkan Light. The particular piece owed much to notions of breath and the sense of the oracular in poets like Whitman and Ginsberg (the entire section consisted of a single propulsive sentence against which a second reader intermittently voiced names of places in the former Slav republic). Thankfully friends and relatives made up for the depradations of seasonal flu (an affliction that cause me to miss a couple of other readings myself).
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
At Monash University in the late 1960s Peter Craven first showed me Christopher Logue’s earlier Iliad translations that would later be collected with others as War Music. I picked these up as I would copies of some of his other books the ABC, New Numbers, Ode to the Dodo. All of these works were clearly oriented towards performance, though Logue was not a ‘performance poet’ in the sense in which the term subsequently began to be used. He was certainly a performer of poems, participating with Allen Ginsberg and others in the famous Royal Albert Hall reading in 1965. I saw him perform a portion of his Homer in Melbourne with the actor John Stanton when he visited Australia in 1986. This was at the first Melbourne Spoleto Festival late in the year at which August Kleinzahler also appeared (a more than happy substitute for an ill John Ashbery). One request Logue made to his Melbourne hosts was for a visit to Hanging Rock where the action of Joan Lindsay’s story (Picnic at Hanging Rock) and Peter Weir’s 1975 film version took place. It was a dingy and wet day with no sign of cicadas and none of our party were mysteriously abducted. I took some photographs near the summit. Here is one of Logue and Kleinzahler.
I subsequently visited Logue in London on two occasions as noted in journals:
7th May 1987, London
Catch a cab across to Camberwell to Christopher’s new house. The builders are still working on it. We go down to Elephant & Castle to a pizzeria for lunch. On the way C asks me to summarize Europe. In the restaurant we talk art – the Velazquez and Goya works in the Prado – and poetry –if only Pound had been as good an editor with the Cantos as he was with The Waste Land – or if only Eliot had edited the Cantos; Bunting (neither of us up on ‘Briggflatts’ – it seems, like Zukofsky, too condensed, too much music and not enough speech); George Steiner - a fraud.
13th September 1992, LondonCrossing Waterloo Bridge we see Logue’s name in flashing lights over the National theatre. Get off at Camberwell Green but have trouble relating my sketch map to the geography. Realize I haven’t brought Logue’s phone number to check up. I haven’t got his street number either. We decide to ask in a pub for a telephone directory. The first pub we enter has one from A-K. The second pub claims not to have a telephone directory. We find the street and work out which house it is – near the middle, set back a bit, door on r.h.s., a church spire just behind – getting it right first time (I’d seen the place five years back when Logue had just moved in). Logue asks after various people and says he’s hoping to get to the 1994 Adelaide Festival & perhaps tour round with ‘Kings’. He’s at work on further Homer at the moment.
Saturday, 26 November 2011
In the summer of 2009 Australian artist Vera Möller spent time in the King’s Wood at Challock, not far from here, as part of an exchange program between Stour Valley Arts and Heide Museum in Melbourne. On Thursday evening the fruits of this period of research were revealed when Möller’s show opened at the Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury. She was trained as a biologist and microbiologist in Germany subsequently studying art in Melbourne. The ‘hybrids’ are tiny models of imaginary fungi which were placed in the natural environment of the King’s Wood and photographed with a macro lens. The large hall at the rear of the gallery shows these large photographic images while a small glass case houses the surprisingly small models. In the hallway and the front room are works on paper which conjure up additional imagined images of mycological specimens and cellular forms. Stour Valley Arts have put together many fine artists books and Vera Möller’s is no exception. It’s a beautiful production concentrating on the photographed hybrids and including critical texts by Justin Clemens (Melbourne), Peter Vujakovic (Canterbury), a witty imagined taxonomy by Ian Bride (Whitstable) and poem/journal extracts from me (Faversham).
Thursday, 24 November 2011
Tuesday night’s reading at The Lamb featured Gavin Selerie and Kelvin Corcoran. Gavin read new work centred on the great English/West Indian saxophonist Joe Harriott together with a longer piece from Music’s Duel, the selected poems. Kelvin read from the new Longbarrow Press book Words Through a Hole Where Once There Was a Chimpanzee’s Face (there’s a rational explanation of this title but you’ll have to buy the book to find out). It’s always a pleasure to hear these two poets. It capped off an enjoyable evening eating out with August Kleinzahler.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
On Saturday I also picked up Simon Smith’s wonderful new book from Veer, Gravesend. The poems within were ‘written whilst travelling by train between Charing Cross and Chatham’. I once amused myself on the trip in to London by counting all of the footballs at the bottom of embankments. Smith has done a lot more than this. The poems aren’t sonnets (strictly speaking) but they nevertheless have the feel of the modern sonnet about them.
Sunday, 13 November 2011
The annual Small Publishers’ Fair took place on Friday and Saturday at its usual location, Conway Hall, off Red Lion Square. I was there for a good part of Saturday and read with Jaime Robles in a Shearsman bracket. On Saturday morning sales seemed sluggish but as the crowd increased things looked like they were picking up. One of the pleasures of this event is purchasing things from the smallest of the small publishers. I bought a couple of Jaime Robles self-produced books at the Shearman stall. She is a wonderful book designer, having run Woodland editions from her native California and further work under her own name from Exeter. I also bought more little books from Laurie and Thomas A Clark’s Moschatel Press produced in Scotland and Japan. And Geraldine Monk and Alan Halsey kindly sold some copies of my Allotments volume at their West House Books stall.
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
In 1973 Michael Wilding and Pat Woolley decided to start a publishing house. Michael, originally from the West Midlands, was writing short stories and teaching in the English department at the University of Sydney. Pat, a Californian, had publishing experience with her own Tomato Press. That press had published Pam Brown’s first book, Sureblock, a couple of years before, and it was through Pam that I met Pat. Wilding’s memoir, just published by Giramondo details the years of Wild & Woolley Press. One evening in 1973 not long before the idea of the Press was hatched, Pat and Michael came back to his place in Balmain to discover that ‘the poets had already entered through the bathroom window . . . eating and drinking whatever they could find . . . Robert Adamson, John Forbes, Laurie Duggan and Nigel Roberts as I remember, give or take a few’. I ended up working for Wild & Woolley at their Chippendale office as a storeman, packer and driver. There’s a photo in the book of the tiny van (powered by a two-stroke engine) with which I did the Sydney deliveries. The Press distributed American books from New Directions, Black Sparrow, City Lights, Four Seasons, Greywolf and other smaller presses and a good deal of my income was spent on these volumes. As an employee I got them practically at cost but I remember Michael saying once, watching me sweating under some boxes ‘it’s like paying the slogging natives off with alcohol’. The Press subsequently published my second book, Under the Weather, in 1978. I’d shown the manuscript to Michael and he’d immediately taken it on. His faith in the book wasn’t reciprocated by the reviewers mostly. One well-known Australian poet called it ‘an easy tiny read’. It was the book, I’ve since realised, in which I found my own way to write. I’m grateful to Michael and Pat for letting it into the world.