A Reading Party at the Troubadour

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So when you have thanked Anne-Marie, how do you say ‘thank you’  and who else do you thank for such an amazing night of poetry, music and good company?

Magical from the start because wonderful CLAIRE DYER ( new collection Interference Effects from Two Rivers launched five days ago ) came early, and brought me up to date over supper with her ongoing career as a multi-tasking writer.

 

mood-indigoWENDY KLEIN was there celebrating her birthday and I was able to thank her for reviewing Safe Passage so thoughtfully in online journal ‘High Window’ earlier in the year.  Wendy’s new collection came out from Oversteps this year and I had the great pleasure of sharing the Oversteps line-up with her at Dartington in July.  Wendy will be reading at the Troubadour in January, on yet another of Anne-Marie Fyfe’s must-be-there Monday nights.

Next delight, downstairs, to find that DOM BURY – whose poems I had admired so much at The Hurst on an Arvon course with Michael Longley and Sinead Morrissey – O LUCKY LUCKY US!!! – was running the book table. Thanks to Dom, Safe Passage sold out which, of course, sends any poet out into the Earls Court rain on a very special  end-of-evening high.

Finding a seat for the evening,  there were JOHN and SUE GODFREY from Ware Poets, long-standing Torbay friends.  By now it cannot be a secret that John has a poem on this year’s brilliant Torbay Competition Shortlist, which launches this Saturday afternoon at the Torbay Festival. I spent many admiring hours this August with the shortlist submissions and had several uncomfortable times feeling that I was about to promote a friend.  (There was a very delightful poem about a bat which I suspected had the familiarly vivid, quirky, articulate Godfrey touch. But it had been written by someone else – I remained in the dark about John’s poem until very much later on.) Ware Poets are a marvellously receptive and enquiring audience and it is a joy to read with them.  I have just been invited back in on February 3rd next year, largely as a result of having Monday night’s opportunity to promote Safe Passage at the Troubadour. Another ‘thank you’ – but still this is not the end…..

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wendy-frenchWENDY FRENCH was in the audience.  So was LESLEY SAUNDERS whose intricate, intriguing, erudite and rigorously lateral poems hold her many Bath admirers in total thrall. And after many years, I had the huge pleasure of meeting MARIANNE BURTON again, another rediscovered friend from an Arvon Course at The Hurst.marianne-burton-a4barney-jones-photos-001-e1376350748811-2

And, as RS Thomas said, in a very much bleaker mood: that was only on one island….

So what did I choose to read at the Troubadour, and why? Here is the little list….

A LEISURE CENTRE IS ALSO A TEMPLE OF LEARNING for the 7,500 A level students and teachers who have visited the honey-coloured girl on other pages of this blog in a quest for answers the poem cannot give… and to thank Forward for deciding it was one of their Poems of the Decade.

PAVAROTTI AT THE GROSVENOR HOUSE HOTEL for anyone who has ever fallen under a musician’s spell….

VIEWS FROM THE BRIDGE for anyone who has ever known that they were loved….

imgresTOGETHER WE GET THE NEWS FROM ONCOLOGY for REBECCA GETHIN who mentions it, and writes so generously about Safe Passage on her wonderful blog…

THINKING ABOUT THE SWANS for Wendy French, who gave it a place on her shortlist when she was Judge for the Torbay Festival…

THE VISITOR because it is Devon poet LUCINDA CAREY’S favourite poem in Safe Passage and also for the ghost who inspired those few lines and returns to hear them whenever and wherever they are read…

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Lucky Again at the Wonderful Troubadour

On Monday 17th October I have the good fortune to be reading again at the amazing Anne-Marie Fyfe’s evening of poetry at London’s iconic Troubadour.

This will be my FOURTH (!!!) opportunity to share poems with the Troubadour’s fantastic audience.  My life as a poet has been milestoned by those appearances.  I have been remembering them – the poems I read on those spellbinding evenings, their subsequent adventures, the people I met, the way it all fitted together.  Here is how it has worked…..

THE FIRST TIME

I remember reading Trust Your Instincts Not Your Baedeker for Magma.  Years later this intricate villanelle was translated, immaculately, in all its formal complexity, in twenty four hours, by my brilliant Venetian translator Giancarlo Caine – thus putting my small skills in having composed it ( over many months ) very firmly in their place.  Trust Your Instincts… appears in my Oversteps collection SAFE PASSAGE , which I shall be reading from on Monday night.

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THE SECOND TIME

Michael Mackmin invited me to read as one of his Rialto poets.  This gave  A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning its first out-of-Bath experience, since when that poem has wriggled its way up to the FORWARD POEMS OF THE DECADE and the A level syllabus.  It has shed a few lines since Michael published it, and made me a lot of online friends among the students and teachers who are now required to know why there are twelve older women in the changing room, and whether the word ‘temple’ relates to a classical, a christian, a hindu or a buddhist framework of belief.  Also whether the poet envies her honey-coloured girl, or disapproves of her engagement with appearances. So far, my girl has been visited 7,500 times on this blog. She will probably have another outing on Monday night.

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Anthony Fairweather

THE THIRD TIME

The third time I read at the Troubadour, I didn’t have the protective umbrella of an editor. I was having a Roman phase and read A Place Called Argentina, which appears in  SAFE PASSAGE. Jeremy Sallon liked the lines about the starlings ‘funnelling their black murmurations in among the trees’ enough to invite me to read at the event he and Ernie Burns were running together in the Betterton Street Poetry Cafe , Platform One.  The adventure of that reading introduced me to the talented performance poet Anthony Fairweather who subsequently came down to read at our Week of Good Poetry in Bath. I never read Argentina without thinking of that delightful triumvirate, and in particular what Anthony so kindly taught me about doing my best to memorise poems I plan to read.  I have failed in that, but do my best to have them, if not by heart, at least at my fingertips.

THE FOURTH TIME……

Who knows what poetry adventures and encounters lie in store?  How could Monday evening be anything other than magical when I have the privilege of appearing with Scarlett Sabet, Paul Casey, John Greening, Afric Mcglinchey, Heidi Williamson, Angela Kirby & Michelle Cahill.  SAFE PASSAGE to all……

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Safe Passage with the Fire River Poets

Written over the four years following the publication of Too Late for the Love Hotel, the poems in Safe Passage were not imagined as part of the collection in which, last summer, they so happily found themselves. For each poem that reached the book, there was at least one waiting in the wings, unchosen, clamouring, finally uncalled.  Composing the collection was rather like making up a jigsaw from twice the number of pieces that were required.  The final picture was therefore more provisional and tentative than it was complete.

The guest reading slot at the Fire River Poets‘ evenings in Taunton is arranged in two halves, interleaved with the open mic sessions, one half either side of the convivial interval.  I wanted not to repeat the mood of the first half – whatever that would be – but to give Fire River Poets a programme that rose to the opportunity offered by being allowed in one evening to suggest two contrasting pathways through my book.

Preparing for this Taunton guest reading, I seem to have discovered at last what Safe Passage is about.

Uccelli di passo  ( birds of passage ) is the title of the Aldo Patocchi woodcut I chose for the cover design.

Flying to the Light

A wooden surface carved and chiselled away to discover light within the dark plane of the inked-up printing block – this became my personal metaphor for my book on Thursday night. It was important that the cover image was a woodcut rather than a pen drawing : this would have laid dark thoughts/ black moments on a clean white field and made quite a different statement about the lives who passage through my book. My more fortunate characters find ways to discover light in a rather sombre, often alarming world.  Light has to be worked for/ is threatened with extinction/ is found in surprising places/ is all the more dazzling against the background of the dark.

L’amore, la morte, how close they are ….

I ended my first half-reading with ‘Waterlilies at Schönbrunn’, the poem from Report from the Judenplatz twice chosen by Matt Holland for his reading at the cenotaph on Swindon’s Holocaust Memorial Day.  The image of the crowded waterlily leaves ‘imploring light from the indifferent sun’ was the closest that poem dared approach the unbearable truths about what happened to the Jewish citizens abandoned by the gentile populations of the european cities to which they belonged. Imploring light ….hoping for illumination…. imagining a brighter world….the denial of light ….the awareness of the tantalising proximity of light … working towards light …losing the light …that hunger linked so many of the poems in Safe Passage –  I wondered whether it was peculiarly an ex-picture dealer’s way of interpreting the world.

A dealer in pictures is what I am, a poet said…

The light in the Safe Passage poems doesn’t seem to be a metaphor for an otherwordly state of grace. Light is simply standing in for / the visual equivalent of its near namesake, life. The incalculable blessing. The incalculable good. Planning my Fire River reading, I realised that in its quirky, metropolitan, troubled, yearning, rather old-fashioned, unambitious way Safe Passage is a passionately hopeful and optimistic little book.  If you look again at the cover, you can see that darkness does indeed seem to be gathering about the buildings, but the birds are flying, together, out of the dark passage in the left hand sky  and towards the light. 

Life does sometimes engineer the reprieve of her Illyrian nightingales.

I have to thank the Fire River Poets for allowing me to spend such a pleasant evening in their talented and receptive company. But I also have to thank them for making me think properly about my little book.  I suspect every future reading from Safe Passage will be shaped in some way by the March Thursday evening I shared with them.

So I will end this post with the lines that mean so much to me, for very personal reasons, from ‘New Things’, one of the poems there wasn’t time to read….

Look at our lagoon, signori.
Luce sull’acqua. The light of heaven.
The dancing of the water.

 

Safe Passage is available from Oversteps BooksFlying to the Light