Friday 24 October 2008
A prize and London
A letter received yesterday from POETRY magazine to announce that the set of poems I published there in February - the ones about photographs - have been awarded the Bess Hokin Prize. This arrives in the same post as a speeding fine (a roadside camera). It's a very nice prize. All prizes are and one from the USA is particularly, strangely, nice. As for the speeding fine, I think poets ought to be allowed to speed now and then. A little. On a dual carriageway.
Here is one of the POETRY poems:
Four poilus in a wood austerely shitting.
Death watches them, laughing, its sides splitting.
Life is a cry followed by laughter.
The body before, the waste after.
Could one hear in that wood the gentle click
of the shutter like the breaking of a stick
or the safety catch on its climacteric?
Like the four winds. Like a low fart that rips
clean air in two, like urine that drips.
Four squatting footsoldiers of the Apocalypse.
Kiss them lightly, faint breeze in the small leaves,
be the mop on the brow, the sigh that relieves.
Let them dump and move on into the dark plate
of the unexposed future, too little and too late.
The sidebar has a link to both the poems and a recording of the editors discussing some of them and me reading two.
Yesterday C and I drove to London, C to deliver her pictures, me to Bush House to record the Points of Entry essay, some fifteen minutes or so in a series starting on 24 November. I used to go to Bush House for World Service recordings now and then. Deep in the bowels of the building one would move between partitions where producers of programmes to Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, Chad and Mongolia led their subterranean lives. Cigarette smoke, slightly yellowed faces... Or am I imagining the cigarette smoke?
First we go to the gallery and drop off the Palladio pictures. It's a gallery that likes photorealism and a generally un-painterly line of work, by which I mean the works are to be apprehended as all image no paint. That's not C's way, nor was it mine, so we feel we are in someone else's house on best behaviour, our buttons and laces never in such quite perfect order as to pass muster. But there we are. My poem about Palladio is in the catalogue (as also in Manhattan Review, where I have previously published, sometime soon.) I feel even odder, a solitary poet among architectural painters and architects.
Over at Bush House the recording takes about an hour or so, maybe a little more with some re-takes. The producer, the technician, the series producer are all women. They are very nice. One says it is good to hear of someone speaking well of their reception in Britain. Well, that's how it was, I say, and so I feel an obligation to say so. I can just imagine someone else frowning and saying: 'But have you thought about those who have been ill treated and exploited?' and this will come across as an accusation. And I will say: "Yes, I have, but it was not my experience and I am not about to lie about it."
Then, having received a phone call from Ron King, over to the premises of Circle Press, just off the Portobello Road, to sign sheets of the limited edition version of The Burning of the Books. A paperback version of the same collaboration will be out soon, probably some time in December. It looks a wonderful thing thanks to Ron whose eyes are as full of energy as ever.
Then the packed commuter train to Stevenage where C picks me up and she drives us home. Today I am reading books (in French) by Cecile Wajsbrot. I wish upon wish my French were better. This for Frankfurt on Wednesday.
I have poems to respond to, from UEA, from ex-UEA and also via this blog. So I am about to dive in.
Oh, a big PS. I am conducting one of those Guardian poetry workshops next thing. My workshop idea has just gone in today.