Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Little Murders, Big Murders.. And Light

Back home from hosting a reading so exhausted after constant travel and rushing. but worse than anything the Arts Council cuts. It seems an attempt at the assassination of poetry at its roots. Poetry will survive of course, but not necessarily the people who have put their hearts and souls into making publication and distribution possible. For them - for me too - it is heartbreaking. And then for the Arts Council of England to give a hundred thousand to a commercial publisher like Faber is an absolute disgrace. Carol Ann Duffy got it right:

The poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, condemned the cutting-off of the Poetry Book Society, established by TS Eliot in 1953 "to propagate the art of poetry" as "a national shame and a scandal". She added: "This news goes beyond shocking and touches the realms of the disgusting."

Disgusting is exactly what it is. The PBS has been my own particular concern for several years. It is a core organisation doing so much more than selling books. But then there are the publishers too: the root publishers who do the work with new writers and translations.

We will fight these of course. Much activity to come. There is nothing cheaper to support than literature and books, and poetry is the cheapest of all. For the sake of a few coppers they kill half of it. Little murders and big murders.

I'll write more on this tomorrow...

News at the university no better, administrative redundancies, losing invaluable, kindly, highly efficient people; reorganisations that mean moving the experienced into areas where they don't have experience, very fast, creating faceless 'hubs'. Thank you bankers and our glorious financial sector. Pocket those bonuses and let them sink you.


But, also tonight, the second in the series of free readings at the Drama Studio. These are turning into rather wonderful events. The bill was Heidi Williamson, Sam Riviere, Katharine Kilalea, Tom Warner and Peter Scupham. Fine attendance and marvellous readings, I mean really marvellous. I was particularly struck by Kilalea's recitation of her radio poem sequence which I found absolutely spellbinding.

Riviere, Warner and Kilalea, all excellent, all Norwich educated, with more to come. Heidi Williamson, local, grown into a very fine poet. These things make me happy, as they did the audience too. That was positively palpable. Poetry at best is electricity that flows through the neural system in the form of language and leaves the reader or hearer feeling electric. This was an electric reading. It's the present and the future. And Peter Scupham is simply one of the major poets in this country. He is a monument.

The bleakness of the day transformed. Just for the evening maybe, but the memory will remain and generate more such evenings and more electricity, quite beyond the reach of Arts Councils and Cuts and Funding. The poetry is in us: that will never go, however people try to kill it.


Gwilym Williams said...


You tell 'em George!

I was reading a poem by Giacomo Leopardi last night but unfortunately I don't have the book with me so I can't quote it, but it was right on the money when it comes to the terrible state of the world; written 200 years ago of course, but some things never change.

Sabine Pascarelli said...

What you tell is hard to believe. I can report from Italy that similar things are happening. Poetry is inexistent, few private readings here and there like secret gatherings; 20-25 people in the audience are a reason to rejoice. Right now they are trying to murder music: big cuts, the theatres don’t receive any more money, so they cannot hire musicians for the orchestra or pay them adequately, they are paid less than workers. Small theatres have to close. Young musicians graduating from the music academies are constricted to look for a job outside of Italy, who has the courage to declare “I am a poet”, wears an indelible sign.
It is, as if in higher places they have decided to do all they can to keep people away from what nurtures the soul, to let them grow ignorant and fearful to fit better into the system. We are not yet done with revolutions…