This blog is delayed because I was initially invited to the wrong blog, so I was writing and my blogs weren’t appearing and there I was thinking I was being censored, but actually I was just in the wrong house. Anyway, I’m glad that’s all sorted because I nearly turned off my response reflex – the one that seeds my opinions when I go to events – and that’s never a nice feeling.
Now to my first event: As I often find, the person whose photo graced the event was the one whose poems moved me the least, but I qualify that by saying that Jorie Graham is a great speaker – I would love for her to be my lecturer – and perhaps on the page I will connect to her poems better, yet on stage it wasn’t quite for me. A little too ponderous, in spite of a few finely wrought lines, and I found myself counting how many ‘ands’ she uses per poem (I won’t do her the dishonour of listing the number) and marvelling at how Americans from the United States love the word ‘humanity’. I found Mark Doty’s narrative style much more engaging; it brought to mind the likes of Leontia Flynn, Niall O’Sullivan with its sudden dips into the philosophical and existential, and perhaps elements of Paul Muldoon’s meanderings and playfulness with language. On the whole though – and this was true for most people I spoke to after the readings – the really striking poetry came in the first half; from Valzynha Mort who in the simplest of language (I’m not certain she has the best translators I must say) amongst many heart-rending passages from the book The Factory of Tears, spoke of lighting the candles of TV sets, thus illuminating a peculiar truth of the modern world – most people can find a TV easier than they can find a candle these days. Valzynha was followed by Mourid Barghouti (the reason I went to the reading in the first place) and he did not disappoint. Am I swayed by the fact that for thses two poets we were reading their ‘texts’ off a sky-high grey screen? I think not – there is something about cadence and truth that transcends language and medium. So, back to Mourid. Absolutely fantastic irony, uncanny eye for everyday happenings that reveal the world. In his words, there are trees whose only fruit is greenness – so true – but only un vrai poète notes that their details belie their sameness and their radiance confirms it [see the complete poem here] and speaks it with ease, humour and compassion from a podium that hides nothing. So too with this event: we saw four poets and there is no doubt that all of them have work that comes to life on the page, but is there life away from the page?