Thursday, October 25, 2007

Black Moon by Matthew Sweeney, Twenty One Sonnets by Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Songs of Earth and Light by Barbara Korun, Can Dentists Be Trusted? by Martina Evans, Lip by Catherine Smith......these are the books that have joined the teetering stack by my bed and which I'm gorging myself on. How many good writers there are around, how many points of view, how many pictures and ways of describing them.

Matthew read from Black Moon in Lewes on Tuesday night as part of Lewes Live Literature festival. He was on brilliant form and the book roots out strangeness in the world, tilts it even more and presents this dizzying accumulation of stories that belong to an older Europe, without borders.

Martina's poetry is both documentary and intimate. She's been working with Mark Hewitt, director of LLL, on a show that describes 'the Ireland of her childhood and forefathers.' She was reading last night and what a reading. I have never understood why Martina's work isn't better known. She knocks many contemporary British poets into the dunce's corner. This show illustrates the power and authority of her writing and shows her to be, without a doubt, among the most important chroniclers of 20th century Ireland, family and Catholicism.

I'm looking forward to Catherine's launch and to being able to share Barbara Korun's book with as many friends as possible, once I've sent off my cheque for five more copies! Yes. It's that good.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The sky's filled in when I arrive home this afternoon - on the jigsaw that's been at the end of my kitchen table for too long. I guess it's mum. The sun's blazing through the blinds of my room, low and autumnal. I've been in Limerick.

At 9 this morning I was walking by the river Shannon with Marilyn Hacker's Seine poems on my mind, oh and Langston Hughes' masterpiece.... Those and a weekend full of others breathed into the city during Cuisle, the annual poetry festival.

This generous river offers a picturebook castle, swans, wagtails and gulls. I could have walked all morning, trying to keep pace, simplify my overcrowded mind. How many discussions between the water and the mud? Would it take an oar or a rod to translate the river? Does the lorry passing over a bridge have anything to do with the cormorant?

On the bridge, by Jury's hotel, through the trees was a heron in flight. I thought of the cranes I became oblivious to in South Africa. Then the heron seemed like sadness returning. I walked faster and wondered if it was the whisky last night. My father's drink, my father's bleakness - a legacy of Merthyr. Then he's ahead of me as I walk under a bridge towards the castle. He disappears below a wall. I wonder if I imagined him, but as I look over the fence, I disturb him. He leaves the mud, flies off screeching, to a post in the water where he stays.

I sit on a bench and watch him hunched, compact, quiet. I'll put sadness down to late nights and booze, shift it by imagining poems floating as paper boats. I remember Cahal's celebration of gluttony and love, Michael's gift to his grandson, Barbara's birth of an angel, Theo's unforgettable vigil, Gabrielle's sonnets, Eilean's delicate surprises. These poems are still in my mind at the end of today as the clock heads towards midnight.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A notebook lost and found. I felt as if I'd lost a summer, the weeks of rain and sun, two holidays, my lists, scraps of started poems, ghostly, unborn. Then I wondered if it was lying somewhere in a drawer, case or under a sofa. In lost property. Did it get bored with my life and seek out another one, the way a cat does?

Perhaps it was wandering around another city, finding backstreets and a cafe where locals are chatting about the lottery or a neighbour's transgressions, a glass of chilled beer on the table.

I couldn't imagine where I'd left it. I searched under my bed, through the house, in every bag. And then I went to St Mungo's on Wednesday, as I did the week before, and there it was - on a chair in the TV room.

I swam this morning in a temper. So I pounded the pool until I'd worked it out of me. Now to return a pair of boots which have lasted about a month before falling apart. I used to believe that boots, at least, were made to last a winter.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight and the Pips is in my mind as I look out at the rain this morning. I wanted to start with the midnight train to Brighton last night, but that's the power of a famous title, it led me into that soulful refrain.

It's almost always interesting, that Brighton train - it has two destinations and divides at Haywards Heath, it's also the one that takes us all home after a night out. Some stagger on and fall asleep, risking ending up at the end of the line in Worthing or Eastbourne, serious penance for a few post work drinks. Some stagger on and chatter.

It was the chattering type who found me wide awake and still buzzing from reading at the Troubadour in Earls Court, a Coffee Poetry night organised by Anne Marie Fyfe that featured the astonishing US poet CK Williams, promoting his hefty Collected Poems, a sharp and witty Roz Goddard from Birmingham, reading from her great book, How to Dismantle a Hotel Room, and another American, Janice Moore Fuller, reading from her third book of gentle and humane poems, Seance.

And it was Seance that this chattering young man picked up off the table as he dropped into the seat opposite me. One of the more delightful conventions at poetry readings is the swapping of books, so I had Janice's and Roz's out of my bag and was looking back over poems I'd heard them deliver, discovering others and generally enjoying a post reading high - compensation for a day hoovering and cleaning the loo.

Oh, we talked about upholstery, job satisfaction and happiness and he liked Janice's poems. I was his second target. The first was a young woman on the other side of the corridor, working away at a project on Parnell, who looked at me nervously a few times as he tried to persuade her that history was taught wrong. But I just want to get to university, she said......As these things go, he lost the thread and after me he staggered down the carriage to start up a third conversation. I wonder how many of these fractured meetings took place last night. He seemed lost in his drunkenness, but I guess that's better than aggression.

The Troubadour was a gathering of very different styles and run with the generous, efficient spirit of Anne Marie and her husband Cahal Dallat. Both of them are good poets, kind people and Cahal is also a fine accordianist, who played us into both halves of the night.