Infinite Lives – Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
through the entirety of which the Working Men and, especially, their wives talked loudly.
But nevertheless was an excellent event from the Homework boys. Passionate and witty sermons in poetry and prose by Joe, Tim, Ross and Chris, exploring the netherworld of computer gaming; the virtual worlds of pixellated hedgehogs and supercharged ninjas. Ross in particular made a strong case for gaming as a new and important metaphorical landscape, a way to reconfigure and imagine our own, real worlds. His Streetfighter sonnets a case in point. Well done, chaps. It has reminded me to write that sequence based on the Matrix Trilogy.
Poetry and Place – The Battle of Ideas
On Sunday I took part in a panel debate on Poetry and Place with Shirley Dent, Glyn Maxwell and Dave Bowden. There were also readings by a number of poets, including Sid Bose, Inua Ellams, Jay Bernard, Leela Gandhi (yes) and myself. Glyn read an excellent piece at the end: a Medieval Mystery Cycle set in his hometown, Welwyn Garden City. I’ve published an excerpt of his play Liberty in the new Litro. It was a pretty fierce debate. As expected, I clashed with Shirley on a number of points to do with the nature of poetry, language and the role of the writer. I think I put my points across, which is all one can hope for.
Reading – Comma Club, Oxford
Went down to Oxford on Tuesday with Sarah. It’s been a few years, and always a fairly surreal process as I spent three years there at university. In chronological order… hung out in Blackwells’ Urban Theory section with some Spanish academics; bought Will Self’s Liver; had a huge lunch of Steak & Ale Pie at The Turf washed down with a pint of something local (Sarah had the Fish & Chips); met up with my old friend and fellow Medievalist Alex at Rose’s on the High Street; perambulated the parks (joggers, why oh why?); nipped in to St Anne’s for no particular reason; spent two hours drinking and reading in the Royal Oak, one of our favourite haunts.
Then it was off to meet Jamie and head up to Keble College for our reading at a new student-led society called the Comma Club. The organiser, Jack, was very nice and efficient and we were ushered into a large vaulted room with paintings of former principals (or rectors, or whatever they call them) on the walls. The audience was 100% student and (I think) mainly non-poetry fans. Though Jay was there, and also Charlotte Geater who’s a former Foyle winner. I read ‘this is yogic’, ‘Iconic’, ‘How To Build A City’ (short version), some of ‘The Terrors’ and ‘The Voyages of Ottar and Wulfstan’. Jamie read postcard poems, review poems, his brilliant fashion poem and a couple from Ex Chaos. He got me up to help with his eggbox poems, the medical questionnaire and (with Sarah) ‘Score for a Nocturne’. Very attentive audience and some nice comments afterwards, especially from a bubbly girl from Essex who used to sleep in some kind of stone hideout near Liverpool Street. I think the Comma Club’s a grand idea, and wish it well. Sold some books. Had some wine. Then stumbled towards the train station via Bangkok Palace where Jamie, Sarah, Jay and I had a quick meal. Caught the penultimate and practically empty train back to Paddington, where we discovered the tubes had stopped earlier than expected. Night bus home. Obama elected.
NB: Whilst in the Gents at Keble, I stumbled into a rather amusing if predictably mysogynist conversation between 2nd or 3rd year male students about the practice of ‘sharking’ fresher girls. Like old times, it was.