Thanks to the Cambridge Literary Review, our little bookshop has started to grow the very first roots (root hairs, apical meristem) in the delicate humus which is the local poetry scene. We had a full house last Saturday, counting 40 plus guests and leaving standing room only. The size of the audience kept us warm, literally, on a cold and windy evening. And quite a few were rolling their own - It was sad news to me that the old stupidity of smoking was again de rigeur among our poets.
John James started the evening with a intensely spiced word-bath, interested and joyfully surprised at the continuous flow of significance that his kaleidoscope of words would set free - making me, for one, eager to see the words we heard. I just caught one Joyce quotations, "silence, exile, and cunning" - many more will probably come forward when we see his work on the page.
Dell Olson read against the whisper of the ginger nuts her little boy was eating in the background, and perhaps she read also against a practice which marvels at the poetic magic of created meanings and images. She seems to take the reader on a tour of deconstructed language, such when verbs seem to go missing, and the effects are surely marvelous and taste like insight.
The former bookseller among our poets, Ian Patterson, would represent still another style of poetic practice. Sixty Windows, based on the text of novels where the word "window" occurs on page 60, is not only a commentary on some notion of poetic imagination, but also came closest to re-constitute our audience differently - through humour, and not through the quiet seriousness schooled in academic seminars, - something that is very hard to shed in a place like Cambridge. As a bookseller I tend to frown when I sell another book of humorous poetry: It seems shallow and cheap. But from the point of view of a reading, the laughter of the audience would be a worthwhile goal to pursue. Is this a challenge? Poets, if you can make us laugh, I'll get the old ashtrays out again, and you won't have to smoke out in the cold any more!
Thanks again to Lydia and Boris, to James, Dell and Ian, - we had a great evening!
More images from the event on facebook.