Saturday, 9 October 2010

National Poetry Day | Poetry | Bust

(from left) Abigail Parry, Dylan Thomas, Phil Brown

But I can't say it like I sing it.
And I can't sing it like I think it.
And I can't think it like I feel it.
- David Bazan

You are so many people you can barely recognize yourself sometimes, aren’t you? You have so many faces and behavior sets to suit your various crowds that you struggle to keep up sometimes. Look at you. You’ve no idea which one of you is supposed to be reading this article. Is it the intelligent one? Or the one that likes staying out late at the weekends? Or the ironically fashionable one? Or is it the one that reads poetry?

What do you do when the situations merge? When you are forced to be more than one of those people at once?

OK, interrogation over… on with the article.

Last Thursday I had the honor of reading at an event called Poetry of the Future in London’s Poetry Library. The event was hosted by Simon Armitage and featured four of the 2010 Eric Gregory Award winners (we were sadly without the supremely talented Matthew Gregory).

Having spent the previous evening working out how best to deliver a lesson based on a couple of Armitage’s poems from the (soon to vanish from the syllabus) AQA Anthology it was a surreal treat to meet the guy. It was also somewhat of a relief to find that he was a really nice bloke – although I’m sure my pupil’s would have been delighted if I’d gone back to school the next day to reveal “oh yeah, you remember that Armitage bloke I was teaching you about yesterday? He got drunk and called Seamus Heaney a c-“

But alas, it turns out everyone is fairly pleasant.

The reading itself was an enjoyable experience. I did that thing (you’ve seen it before) where I decided that I wouldn’t need the microphone and delivered the set unamplified. I’ve seen several people do this over the years and always make the snap decision of either ‘that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen’ or ‘that guy is a tool of the most rudimentary fashion’. Part of me wishes I’d got the audience to fill out a questionnaire to let me know which of these two options I exude.

 The most pleasing thing about the event itself is that I have spent such a long time in the Poetry Library over the past five years that it felt truly bizarre being invited to read at the place. If you live close enough to London to feasibly make a visit then I implore you to do so… it is one of the few places I know where there is the undiluted atmosphere of placid appreciation of literature needed to truly engage with words.

A few years ago, I wrote a poem about the place, which I dug out and read on Thursday. As my NPD present to you, here it is:

Poetry Library

Unabashed scream of pre-teen paddlers in a fountain
wafts through the skylight
undermining the room’s synthetic autumn.

A bronze bust of Dylan Thomas peers past me
to the pretty lady skim-reading Rilke
by the sliding shelves.

I am dwarfed by the nepotistic quarterlies lining the walls,
a paper network of favours
I will never be able to anything offer.

I replace the list of publishers in its plastic pocket
bin my books
and go to splash my feet in the fountain.

Phil Brown
Poetry Editor

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