Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Saison Poetry Library Open Day: Poetry in Performance

With permission of The Saison Poetry Library

A week ago I went to this year's Open Day for the Saison Poetry Library at London's Southbank.

The theme was Poetry in Performance, and the organisers brought together some fascinating strands of that theme: not just the concept of poetry readings, but permutations such as poetry as music (focusing on the work of Leonard Cohen), historic recordings of Tennyson and Browning (here referred to as "The Victorians: Those Gods of Slam"), automatic writing, books and poetry as art, actors reading poems...the list goes on.

The displays made a great space for browsing, leafing, listening and enjoying. I signed the Seamus Heaney book of condolences, pored over a wonderful-looking long poem from 1981 called Fox Running by Ken Smith, and marvelled at the very crackly recording of Tennyson reading 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. Although no recordings of Gerard Manley Hopkins were ever made, librarian Chris McCabe pointed out in his writeup: "Hopkins' art was led by his instinct and an inversely atavistic desire to listen to what poetry from the future might sound like. Through listening to himself he was expressing all that he strongly felt that poetry could be." In the section on Comedian Poets, digital co-ordinator Chrissy Williams noted: "It's often prompted by deliberately boisterous or comical performers, but we've heard distinguished poet Geoffrey Hill's banter between poems drawing hearty laughter in the past."

There was also a very interesting section on the ghazal, the great Persian/Arabic/Indian form, which has arrived in the West through writers such as Adrienne Rich, W S Merwin, Marilyn Hacker and Mimi Khalvati, and stayed closer to its origins in the work of the great twentieth-century Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Finally, I saw collections and books which pushed the poetry-as-visual-art to its utmost limits, bringing in daring reflections on censorship and design.

In the evening, there were readings by Claire Crowther, Charlotte Higgins and Linus Slug: Insect Librarian, all of which were adventurous with the poetry-in-performance concept, whether sonically, or in terms of theme or style.

I'm already looking forward to next year's Open Day. Here are a few photos:


Ron King, ‘Alphabeta Concertina’ (Circle Press, 2007), with permission of The Saison Poetry Library

Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck, ‘Dust to Dust’ (Ambeck, 2012), with permission of The Saison Poetry Library

With permission of The Saison Poetry Library

No comments:

Post a Comment