Wednesday, March 07, 2007
There's something about Bath, especially on a sunny day, that sublimely overrides its bourgeois complacency and makes it all sparkly and delightful, and during Lit Fest week there's the added lure of writers swarming around the Guildhall conversing avidly about writing. Localness was the theme at the Morning Coffee events: Debby Holt explaining why Bath is more like a character than a setting in her latest book and Jane Bailey urging a generous pinch of imagination. 'It's liberating to make things up."
Thursday was Brian Patten's reading. I've been a Liverpool Poets groupie since the '60s, and Patten was always my best of band. The waif-like angelswithdirtyfaces beauty has solidified somewhat but the voice has the same sandy softness, almost too tactile for everyday use. And the poems are still wonderful. That dress won't stop you growing older... written five months ago, has the same gentle erotic sadness as 'Into my mirror has walked' from 40 years ago. And the same honesty.
Honesty is a good link to Luke Wright, who brought his brilliant POET LAUREATE tour to Frome on Saturday night, and ran a fantastic workshop during the day too. The performance is a high-tech, high-energy, laugh-till-you-wee(p) romp through the history of poetry and all who sail in it, studded at intervals with Luke's own poems. At first hearing these seem as irreverant and anarchic as the links, but something about each one of them stays, and I think that's the honesty. Performance can improve the show, but the words are more important, Luke told the post-show talk audience; to me his passion was the most important thing. Luke began his workshop by saying "Art should entertain, but have a serious point too" and that's the aspect that makes this man's work so much more than clever stand-up comedy. To use his own 'only marginally self-satirising' terminology, Luke Wright touched me with his words.
And from the baby-faced poet who calls his work 'trying metaphorically to shit on the ceiling' to the farthest end of the line: "Tell me the truth about love", last week's BBC2 tribute to Auden. Sombre to see old chewing-gum-face senile and stammering at the end of his life, but his sense of the vocation of poetry, like his undaunted love, is inspiring. Like Patten says, Nothing is ever as perfect as you want it to be. Even Luke can't dance. Or so he says. And like Debby recalled on Wednesday, Emily Dickinson ('not a ball of fun') did give us one jolly quote: "All but Death can be adjusted."