Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Alice Oswald / India
Excellent reading last night with Alice Oswald. She was delayed because of an accident on the railway line but still made it in time to talk to the students, before a break, then addressing the 250 odd audience.
She reads quite hypnotically, mostly from memory, carefully spacing her words and lines. She doesn't read too much but levers each poem into the air so you could hear a pin drop. The great theme is nature, or rather nature and humankind and the energies that flow through both. Her introduction to The Thunder Mutters, the anthology she edited, (the title a quotation from John Clare) begins with a dedication to the humble rake, the gardener's friend, not the eighteenth century hell-raiser. The drag and scuff of it, its grasp on texture lies at the heart of the poems. Then there is the river, those flicks, swirls and tides, the lives the river supports and generates, and the dream-element of moon at night (she is an insomniac and walks the night out).
Like all good poetry her work presents the body in words: language being the other body. But she also has something of the shaman or the seer. There is a looking through things, albeit against resistance. She says she prefers listening to looking, and the ghosts of Manley Hopkins and Hughes, and Homer too, certainly stalk through her verse.
All subjects have to be reinvented. In her case she is reinventing nature for us, but not a nature at odds with people, rather one that encompasses people and their sheer cussedness with its own sheer cussedness.
The conversation flew by.
And now to set off to the station. First to London to do a podcast with Sarah Crown at The Guardian, then over to Heathrow 4 and a night flight to Delhi.
I'll probably keep in touch here.