Sunday 13 March 2011
from Delhi 4
Of course, everything is overshadowed by the Japanese earthquake and the nuclear leaks. What a year this has been for disasters already!
In that perspective our concerns look insignificant, but while the mind is engaged with something else the great disasters wait at the door. Once they enter one might as well be thinking with the mind fully engaged in any case.
I led in the morning on material springing from the earlier blogs about football and form, so there is no great need to go into that. The point was that here I was proposing it at an angle to the general agreement around free-flow and what is considered to be openness - and for that matter interest and validity. My task, so I felt, was to present form as chance and incompletion - as a liberator in other words - rather than as an enslaving pretty pattern.
Was this the best thing to do? Perhaps not. The group is not particularly interested in definitions, or thinks it isn't, and quoting the ancient anonymous quatrain O westron wind when wilt thou blow / The small rain down can rain / Christe, that I were in my true love's arms / And I in my bed again may be at too much of a tangent in its attempt to prove the power of the line and of concision, as well as the power of imperfection (those two 'I's that actually make the poem, along with the cry of Christe!)
But it all ends amiably enough though once again I wonder if I am in the right place, the right heaven. That might depend on the other angels with whom I have been inhabiting. I do not intend this ironically. There is something of what I understand as genuinely angelic in the project.
But, having slept only two hours last night, I put my head down, setting the alarm to give me three-quarters of an hour possible sleep. Sleep does come.
Quickly then, get dressed and wait for the taxi to take me to the much grander Hotel Shangri-La Eros where the Bitish Council conference on mixed communities and globalisation is taking place. The hotel is intensely security conscious. The conference is upstairs. Eva H comes out to greet me and tells me there is some timetable adjustment. Instead of half an hour she would like me to read for about ten minutes over coffee. The subject should, ideally, having something to do with the theme of the conference, so I take out Preston North End, and three sonnets from the sequence, Backwaters: Norfolk Fields, plus two new poems, The Best of All Possible Worlds, and the pair, Honour, and Pride, this all goes very well and they want an encore so I give them, Sisyphus, which is set in a hotel and deals with eternal transition. There among the participants is Miklós Haraszti from Hungary, in whose flat we stayed during most of 1989. I haven't seen him since then. It is a warm reunion.
Back at the IIC it is time for the last readings. Sharmistha gives three excerpts of superbly poised, meditative prose that moves through history as in a series of sharply recalled dreams; then Forrest Gander performs his poems. I find these hard to judge as poems because the level of performance is too strong for me the first time round. His whole body convulses as with a mild but continuous electric shock. His delivery is similarly electric, in bursts, with sharp crescendos and steep brief diminuendos. At the end he quotes a Japanese tanka, in Japanese, as a reminder of events. It is a stunning performance, and a perfectly legitimate one, but for the moment it takes place in front of the poems, so I close my eyes and it is immediately better. I know from reading the book I have what a really good poet he is: that is how I know.
Finally Allan Sealy reads and talks about his work in hand, which is a kind of journal, but so much more. This is the reading that most blows me away - it's funny, lyrical, matter-of-fact, studious, naturally manic, and yet tender and solicitous. If there is anyone truly angelic here it is Allan. He encompasses more than any of us do by being not ideas about the thing, but the thing itself. It is a privilege listening. And I mustn't forget the Cybermohalla Collective, who are a miracle sheerly be existing the way they exist, how they came to be and what they remain.
Then supper, and here we are again, at the end of another Almost Island, almost done, almost flown. And me too. I am boiling the kettle and have put a tea bag in the little cup. I will add the powdered milk and a bit of sugar. I hope I have made closer friends with Allan. I think I have a new friend in Charu Nivideta. Those who are friends already remain warm friends. And actually Vahni and I are friends too, different as we are. We would probably drive each other quite mad after prolonged daily exposure. But maybe we can learn from each other too. I can from her - learn, that is, that which I can actually use, which is all anyone can learn from other people.
Late again. Gone midnight. And sew to bid. Or something like that.