Today’s reading at lunchtime in Chapters Bookshop, Dublin, saw Anamaria Crowe Serrrano
give a combination reading of translations from a Mexican poet, two Italian poets and her own poetry, new and ‘old’. The Mexican poet was Elso Cross and Anamaria read ‘The Stones’ from Elso’s New and Selected poems. Then she gave a few from Lucetta Frise from Liguria, Italy: ‘I’d Like to Switch Lives…’ , ‘She Found Herself Alone Surrounded by White…’ Anamaria thought these poems ‘quirky’, to which I would add ‘enigmatic’. Reminded me somewhat of Emily Dickinson. Anyway, very attractive and arresting pieces. Daniella Raimundi was next: ‘Lot’s Wife’ and ‘Goddess’ were longish, thoughtful poems and ‘The Poem Walks Away’ was a clever piece on the relationship between the writer and the written (These sort of poems can annoy non-writers, but not this one I think because it’s consrtucted so well and is genuinely funny). Turning to her own poetry Anamaria read some new work. A poem for an artist, friend Nicola Russell, entitled ‘Nicola as She Leaves’, and then a descriptive ‘Sea Lions at Bull Harbour’. She is now attempting a kind of absidian (?) poem … one in which the initial letter of each line is pre-determined by alphabetical order… or something. I’m not much for such artificialities myself, believing with Charles Olson that content determines form. Then again, those who’ve read my work (those ‘select, though few’) will object that my pentameter is also ‘artificial’, to which I can only reply yes, but not nearly as artificial as… Oh, please go away. But I’ve no doubt Anamaria will make a success of her poem (part of which she read out), such are her creative powers. She then had a very clever poem of a domestic kind ‘Just to Let You Know’ which collected ordinary household phrases and made a fine, arresting poem out of them. She finished with some pieces from her book ‘Femispheres’ (Shearsman Books, 2008): ‘Nature’, ‘6.45 am’ and ‘Divers’.
Due to a hitch in the proceedings I had to step in unprepared. Well, of course poets are always ‘prepared’ (but like to give the impression that they are ‘unprepared’: ‘What?! Oh, I’m on now, am I? …’) but I would have liked a little time sort out what I might read before I went up to the mic at a moment’s notice. However, listening to Anamaria didn’t allow for that since her stuff is so good (dammit!). All my pieces came from ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again‘ (Seven Towers, 2010) which apparently is selling very well in Chapters, not that ‘sales’ matter to poets (the hell they don’t!): ‘Early Lessons in Divine Intent’ is a poem I hadn’t read out in ages, possibly because it is such a personal recollection of my Grandmother who, more or less, taught me everything I know that is worth knowing., and some things I should have learned better, like kindness and compassion. ‘Shopping for Myself’ is amusing, but contains a few ‘home-truths’ which I don’t like to have to face up to more than I have to. ‘Honister Crag’ is another of those ‘mining’ poems that dot my collection: my family was, after all, a mining family from my grandfather and his brothers, to my father, my uncles etc. Had times and tides been different I have no doubt that I myself would have been working ‘down the mines’ in Yorkshire, Wales, Laois… ‘Inanimates’ is a poem I often overlook because it makes me uncomfortable to think that the very ordinary things I command the use of every day will long outlive me (teapots, cups, books… things I call ‘mine’) and eventually become part of other’s lives. And seeing as it’s the way that our country is going down the tubes at a rate of knots at the moment I felt I had to read ‘First Green Shoots’ and then, to rescue my audience from economic depression I gave them the lighter ‘ Too Much Talk about the Muse’, which is about a visit to the dentist where Milton is the dentist. I actually had to visit the dentist recently (though the dentist wasn’t Milton) so I was able to read with some conviction. Well, I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but I enjoyed this lunchtime reading immensly. Much thanks goes to Sarah Lumsden for doing MC and to Ross Hattaway for taking some photos of me ‘delivering’. (On reflection OF COURSE the audience enjoyed it all. Anamaria and me! What’s not to like?)