Thursday, October 23, 2008

Food and Ink

Got back on Saturday from a much-needed family break in Northumberland, then it was off to St Andrews on Monday for my Inklight reading, stopping off en route in Edinburgh for lunch with fellow HappenStance poet James Wood.

With a bit of time to kill between lunch and my train to Leuchars, I popped into the Scottish Poetry Library to do some final set building and have a quick read of James's "Song of Scotland", in the current issue of Poetry Review. I must go back to the poem. Seeing it on the page confirmed my impressions on hearing him read from it at the Mirrorball gig the other week. It's very strong, hugely entertaining and lays down a barbed challenge to a number of lazy attitudes and assumptions on both sides of the border.

St Andrews being a slightly awkward place to get to, I opted to stay overnight. The train, of course, ran somewhat late, so there was only just time to check in at the B&B before dashing round to The Grill House for a quick meal with Laila and Charlotte from the Inklight committee (£10.95 for two courses and a drink on their early evening menu; recommended) and from there to the venue.

The reading was in the North Hall of the All Saints Rectory (a Scottish Episcopal Church building I remember from previous StAnzas). An intimate room, shall we say, but all the better for that. The audience of about 20 people, mostly students, pretty much filled the seats. I really enjoyed reading to a mostly new audience, but it was great to have Brian Johnstone, Paula Jennings and Anna Crowe there too.

I read two sets, all but two of the poems coming from The Ambulance Box. The first set focused very much on the poems of loss and grief at the heart of the collection. And, following the convention Rob A Mackenzie began, here's the list:

1) The Invention of Zero
2) His Wading Light
3) A Voice is Heard in Ramah
4) Down Darkness Wide
5) Coronach
6) Saxifrage
7) Dream Family Holiday
8) 45 Minutes
9) Lullaby
10) Notes to Self

Hardly light, I confess, but the audience was attentive and very appreciative. It's always particularly pleasing to get good feedback from a set of those pieces.

The second half was shorter, less intense and more of a rag bag:

1) The Meisure o a Nation
2) Cardiac
3) Man with a Dove on His Head
4) The White Dot
5) Spanish Dancer
6) Improvisation for the Angel Who Announces the End of Time
7) The Melody at Night, With You
8) In Praise of Dust

This lot went down well too; laughs and chuckles in all the right places! I'd never read "The White Dot" before and was pleased how well it worked. Not only that, I sold six copies of the sampler pamphlet.

Unfortunately, there wasn't time for a question and answer session after the reading, but a handful of us sauntered to the pub after the Inlight committee had locked up. We had quite a good-going discussion about, among other things, Don Paterson's opinions on the connections between sound and meaning.

I had a great time, rounded off well the next morning by a hearty cooked breakfast and a chat with the other guest at the B&B, who turned out to be a regular StAnzagoer (and thanks for dropping by here already, Di).

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