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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Briggs / Stammers / Caley at the Betsey Trotwood

We were treated last night by three poets reading from their new collections at one of Roddy Lumsden's 'Broadcast' poetry events.

I couldn't miss this excellent selection and trotted on down to the Betsey, a classic pub and a drinking-hole that is unusually hospitable to live poetry and allows the use of the main bar for readings. I guess the landlord knows how well attended Roddy's events are, on top of liking the wordy-stuff.

I sat in the corner with Andy B Jackson and Amy Key, where we chatted and giggled and fidgeted with Amy's fan until Roddy shut us all up, and David Briggs took the microphone to share some of the intricacies of The Method Men (Salt). I like David's poems and have a soft spot for the bee-keeping poem 'In the Senior Common Room', perhaps because it turns on a rule of Roman law that 'a swarm without a hive has no master'. Back in the midst of time I studied Roman law; I remember there was a lot of tort, and I have a clear image of a toga-clad figure running down banks of the Tiber who throws a ring into the river. I can't remember who owned the ring after it was served on a dish at a banquet, but I suspect a rei vindicatio was brought. Crowd pleasers were 'Testicular Torsion' and 'What Happened to Clowns' which both caused the room to strangely shake with quiet excitement.

Next John Stammers read from Interior Night (Picador). Although I have read a good deal of John's work I'd never seen him read before and was rather surprised. I had always thought of 'Anstruthers' as an aspirational poem and hadn't imagined John's actual voice behind the carefully expansive phrases. He spoke in a more down to earth manner than the internal monologue I had assigned to his work. I feel lucky to live in London with its glut of opportunity to hear and appreciate the diverse reading styles of contemporary writers, thanks to organisers like Roddy.

And finally, Matthew Caley took the stage. I reckon Matthew is an absolute total genius. I've been a massive admirer of his work for some time. His new collection Apparently (Bloodaxe) is as fabulous as I expected. I've read 'apparently' poems in his earlier books but now every poem begins or ends with the word 'apparently' to emphasise the unreliability of the narration. The commentaries were as funny and erudite as only Matthew can manufacture; they showcased the connections between diverse cultural icons and facets within the poems which feel cut out and glued together by a man-about-town academic who constructs a specious argument out of thin association.

His poem 'Illinois' had been composed for a previous Broadcast project at which 52 writers each produced a piece about the 52 states of America; except on this occasion Matthew's had been about Utah. The author explained he had been so sure he'd get Illinois, he'd completed it before he was allocated his state. When he got Utah he just changed the name ... what a cheat. But such an elegant one.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fantastic evening - I love london too - there are so many opportunities to see and do things.