Saturday, December 05, 2020

And the answer is Schrödinger’s cat...

 After this blog's grumpy inertia last week,  here's a new concept: our 'Surge Capacity' - the natural energy mankind brings to a crisis - is only designed for short bursts like a tornado which is why, after eleven months, we are inevitably depleted and in need of other strategies to cope. One is to understand the 'ambiguous loss' of our previous lives in terms of a bereavement, but there's a 'both gone and not gone' way of looking it too: just as despair & hope are coexisting, so can lethargy and activity.

With which positive thought I booked a free online talk offered by the National Gallery: 'Every Society Needs a Scapegoat', using Holman Hunt's famous painting as a focus. Christina Bradstreet, introducing, talked about the artist, possibly the most puritanical of the PreRaphaelites: for him the scapegoat seems to share a sacrificial persona with Christ, though with no choice or redemption. Disappointingly Katharine Quarmby's following talk cast no light on the social role of a scapegoat as she used it as showcase for her books on abused minority groups like gypsies, rather than discussing the fascinating question of why all communities seem to need these 'sin-eaters'.

Also online, there's an hour-long Royal Academy Summer Exhibition virtual tour through their closed galleries, though you can move through more speedily. And if you're thinking of arty or crafty gifts for family or friends, do check into the Shop Frome This Christmas facebook page and be amazed by the range of creative local artists. 

'Angry' Sam Berkson came to Frome as our Poetry Cafe Festival Guest five years ago, which why, mainly, I booked to attend the zoom Hammer & Tongue Annual Slam on Tuesday.  Sam's poems are succinct and powerful, delivered with the impact of an orator but immaculately crafted: his opening piece, written in March, was a tirade on 'this virus that is drowning.. choking.. guttering.. our planet', an elegant and apt evocation of Wilfred Owen's poem about mustard gas in the first war.  He moved on to a more positive view: that our new awareness of human fragility may have triggered, finally, the long overdue social reappraisal expressed in the 'Black Lives Matter'. Other powerful poems, both political and personal completed this brilliant set. 
The '2020-themed Slam' that followed gave us eight strong voices, judged in the traditional way by selected -audience response, with a well-deserved (i.m.h.o) victory going to 'Almalia the Alkemist,' who echoed Sam's theme in her spoken word piece asserting that, more important than Covid, In 2020 a black man died.  Here's Almalia looking happy when the audience scores were all totalled and she came out top. 
Thursday's zoom-Poetry event was very different, with none of Hackney's friendly, slightly chaotic, conviviality. Burning Eye Books' hosting of Elvis McGonagall's new book Complete & Utter Cult! was a stern affair: audience members were silenced and blacked out on arrival, so there was no sense of shared enjoyment, which seemed odd & a bit sad for the launch of a poet so witty and provocative.
Elvis last came to Frome three years ago for a special session in the Granary, startling the bar staff by absolutely packing the place out, and it's a source of quiet pleasure to me as a big fan of his work that Burning Eye posted our cover images together in their compilation collection The Best SLAM / STAND-UP / PERFORMANCE / SPOKEN WORD Poetry Book in the World.  Elvis is still terse, tartan, and potty-mouthed. Brexit and lockdown were both grist for his mill of scurrilousness and savagery, providing a banquet of derision in parody clich
és: Get it done! with gin-soaked spirits and quiet despair, rise with pride like a Victoria sponge, living a dream as the Benny Hill theme plays on and on and on and on... His support team were excellent too: Erin Bolens with the comforting thought that Christmas is just another day - if you don't like it, that's ok,  Jonny Fluffypunk,  and Luke Wright excellent as always whether 'embracing the wank' or remembering his father's skeleton clocks. 

Still with books, the Frome FM on-air book group festive edition is now posted here, with gift recommendations from me as well as from Tina Gaisford-Waller, warrior-queen in the bookshop world who this weekend transferred much of the stock of Frome's amazing emporium Hunting Raven Books to the Silk Mill to give buyers more browsing space. The range of authors is incredible: from quirky stick-it-in-the-air-B&B-room titles to massively important tomes like The Book of Trespass, from Peppa Pig to Gareth Southgate, there's genuinely a gift for everyone in your life here, and lots to put on your own booklist.  This pop-up book-fest will be back at the Silk Mill for the 18th-20th weekend for your late buys, and the store will be having some late-evening openings too.

No comments: