Saturday night's reading at the Eason Hill Community Centre I'd been looking forward to since I knew I'd be attending: Peter Manson, Maggie O'Sullivan, and Tom Raworth. Some years ago I heard Raworth read at Birkbeck College to a packed, hot classroom--and I hung on his every word; but I'd never had the opportunity to hear Manson or O'Sullivan.
Manson began with a booming rendition of a page of Adjunct, just republished by Barque. The mix of voices and registers impressed and overwhelmed. Next, at an easier pace, Manson read a new prose poem, "My Funeral," which is a single long paragraph giving intricate instructions for the speaker's funeral, to hilarious effect. One great moment was when Manson read, "Put the polished section of Madagascan ammonite I always carry with me into my left-hand front trouser pocket," and then, from the same pocket, drew out the ammonite to show the audience. The hilarity grew as the poem progressed to its unexpected, outlandish conclusion. I'm looking forward to sharing the piece with my Sudden Prose students next year.
Manson concluded with a draft of a new long poem titled "The Baffle Stage" and with the delightful epigraph from The Fall's lead singer Mark E. Smith, "The fantastic is in league against me." The piece's relentless momentum and range of language give rise to a distinctive, analytical, intelligent contemporary sensibility. Here are a few passages I especially liked; nb, they don't appear continuously in the poem. Thanks to Manson for giving me his reading script, from which I've been able to confirm these are correct and their line breaks.
idiot guarantees of a back-story
no palindrome / but now you're worried
immersive dimplings of the carapace
the poem was acquiring language
Maggie O'Sullivan began her reading with selections from Red Shifts and Waterfalls (both from Etruscan), which together constitute her project, her/story:eye. Her voice lent a musicality to the poems that enhanced their lyricism beautifully. Here are some choice lines (though there may be errors, sorry):
dead shine rook shrill
many a cascade
askew creased it it the echo
sometimes she cries sometimes she is again
the song-flooded walls the saturated of red
easel wink marine ecstasy
The second part of the reading focused on two apparently uncollected poems, one using words from John Clare and one titled (I believe) "Jugular Parting Wild Horses." These lines are from the former work:
power hardens roughest wave
brokenly tremble how the land is returned
Tom Raworth informed us that he'd be reading 20 new short poems and "a page of old prose," the latter referring to his Equipage pamphlet, There Are Few People Who Put On Any Clothes (starring it). I enjoyed the reading, but found it too fast for my taste. Here are some choice passages:
supple mental flirtation may be behind you
inflexible in acknowledgment of doubt
the placebo send the placebo
80% prefer chips to poetry
bodies on the street I can't be everywhere
history portrayed by life-size working models
looks like we've got brain matter
I am the projection of my reflections
Afterwards we went to Trevor Joyce's home for conversation into the night. Part of what made SoundEye such a good experience was the camaraderie. I drifted from one conversation to another, everyone I spoke to engaged and friendly, no pretentiousness or preciousness.
Tom Raworth, Swantje Lichtenstein, yours truly, and Luke Roberts
at Trevor Joyce's after the reading
Bring on SoundEye 2010!
Thanks to Tony Frazer for the photo