Saturday, 10 March 2012

John James

A reading in London by John James was always going to be unmissable. Friday evening’s event lived up to the promise (even if ordered copies of the Salt Companion to John James failed to turn up). Carol Watts introduced the panel of John Hall, Rod Mengham and Simon Perril for takes on the poems then, after a break, Perril read, followed by James. James offered poems from the two very recent collections: In Romsey Town (Equipage, 2011) and Cloud Breaking Sun (Oystercatcher, 2012). James has always been an astute observer of popular culture: what he does with it always feels right, neither reverent nor condescending. I feel as though he inhabits the same world that I do (this doesn’t happen with so many other poets), and I feel that my sense of this is by no means an idiosyncratic one. The new books have a note of the elegiac about them (referring to Barry MacSweeney and Andrew Crozier in particular) yet this is done with wit and humility. Here he is on MacSweeney and Apollinaire (from the poem ‘Reading Barry & Guillaume in Puisserguier’ in Cloud Breaking Sun):

in the heat of the night I dreamt we were all at the I Love You
Poem Award

at a reading organised by some hard edge dudes from the Later
Cambridge School

they asked you to stand up

you were wearing a gorgeous indigo mohair suit

with narrow lapels made in Soho in the 60s

you received an ovation from the crowd

all seated on the ground

they took the prize away from Carol Ann Duffy

& awarded it to you

but you were not there

I had been asked to read by the beautiful Karlien & Lucy

but I leave my spectacles in the breast pocket of my coat

hanging at the back of the venue

I read the last poem anyway & improvise

before I close the book with coup d’émotion

Barry & Guillaume I love your poems


Anonymous said...

Laurie, that's truly awful. It piqued my interest, of course, because Apollinaire entered the frame. I don't know John James' work at all but there's nothing there that will lead me further intro it. Cheers, Rob

Laurie Duggan said...

Well I like the lightness of tone and the way the poem doesn't pretend to be carrying a great cultural weight on its shoulders. I keep thinking of things like Sappho's fragments that have survived and seem strong though there's 'not much there'.