I’m back from London now. What an excellent and self-expanding few days they were.
From Friday to Tuesday I was meeting and listening to (and hanging out with!) many articulate and interesting people, poets and other unacknowledged legislators of the world (thanks Shelley). London didn’t disappoint in its concentrations of talent.
Three events! Here’s documentation and some comment on the trio of readings I took part in. I’ve put in hyperlinks for extra info on the things I mention.
Camaradefest II was the biggie and main reason I ventured south. SJ Fowler had for the second year pulled together a diverse and strength-showing 100 poets, all performing brief outcomes of paired collaboration in hour-long blocks across the day. The forms the readings took were many. For me any criticisms about a brandedness of the event were obviously and swiftly overturned by the diversity of fronts (political, formal etc.) the presentations opened up. Some personal favourites of mine were Kirsty Irving & Harry Mann (also loved instantly by a friend who’d come along with me, which gave me added pleasure!), Olga Peck & Zuzana Husarova who brought a movement into their performance completely symbiotic with the words, and Sean Bonney & nick-e melville who appealed to my music-loving self with a drop-dead gorgeous ballad which kicked over any notion of a divide between the personal and political while also telescoping history – really genius.
The set I was in in collaboration with Colin Herd was the last of the night and there was a lot of musicy stuff for our piece to play along with. Here’s the video. We arrived at something, sounding like Steve Reich minimalism regularly interrupted by exclamatory words, via a poem by Brodsky called Elegy for John Donne. It’s an iambic pentameter poem. Most of the syllables in it we suppressed into the number 1 with a few words showing through to disrupt the typographic snow drift. Here’s an excerpted page of it so you can see what our performing score looked like. Well, before the vigourous pencil markings/barlines etc!
On Sunday morning we organised a Scottish Poetry Power Breakfast at the ICA for the many Scotland-based poets (and extended poetry family connections!) who were down for Camaradefest. Here’s a photo taken at the end with almost all of the readers (thanks Amy Hillman!). Left to Right: Angus Sinclair, Luke Allan (partially obscured 😉 ), Laura Elliott, Graeme Smith, Iain Morrison, Colin Herd, Ryan van Winkle (peeking), Mike Saunders, Emilia Weber, Tom Betteridge, nick-e melville, Francesca Lisette and Samantha Walton.
Many croissants were consumed, we had a great and generous confraternity/consorority/consorty audience. Thanks espesh to SJ Fowler for getting along after what must have been a v. tiring day before. I was very glad he got to give his own placed and pitched reading after programming 100 people the day before.
Finally, I read at The Hardy Tree Gallery, St Pancras on Monday night. It was a closing reading for the Tom Jenks’ ZimZalla press exhibition, presenting ZimZalla’s innovative publishing over the last few years. He’s a poet I’ve enjoyed at a couple of Edinburgh readings before where the work he’s presented has been a delicious concotion of tightly formally constructed nonsense images which shows up the sheer width of breadth of image/disjucture available to us. Maybe it’s not unconnected that his ZimZalla press actually publishes poetry objects, pushing the content into very solid visual demands for our attention. Again, SJ Fowler had organised the running order, and thanks to his bulging little black book, there was a complex of different voices, among whom Lucy Harvest Clarke came as the strong pin between the exhibition and reading poets, launching her New World Banner ZimZalla publication on the night. She also performed a crazily moving poem to a murdered friend that she’d written on black painted Russian dolls, unlidding and placing each doll before carrying on with the text from a smaller doll inside. Thanks to SJ Fowler for the video documentation of my reading once again.
I’d strongly recommend that anyone interested in seeing a range of experimental (whatever that means, and that’s the joy of it!) work being written now, checks out the many many videos of poets on his YouTube channel. I think Mike Saunders and Amy Hillman worked their way through all the Hidden Door ones in bed. That’s my plan for the Camaradefest bits I missed if I can get it past the boyfriend. Who needs Buffy?! (I’ve literally never watched Buffy…)
To sum up this post, it was particularly good to come into connection and community with so many of the poets from London and elsewhere that I’d heard about for some time but not managed to see the work of. A true convocation. This trip has changed things for me, brought me into awareness of ways of thinking, and of debates I previously hadn’t been fully exposed to. I’m excited to feel more owned by a broader poetry body and to see how I can affect it and be affected by it.