LUKE ROBERTS SAY:I thought I’d write a little report on the Ian Patterson and Tom Raworth reading in Cambridge which took place on Friday night, partly to get my own thoughts a little clearer and partly because I think such an event deserves a lingering of attention. It took in a room above some squash courts in Queens’ College which I thought was a great space – I have what may be a false memory of the evening light coming in through the trees and fading slowly as Ian read the entirety of his new book, The Glass Bell. It was meant to be a launch reading, but there was unfortunately some mix-up which meant that the bookwasn’t available on the night, but it’s apparently going to be on the Barque Press website this week.The start of Ian’s reading was marked a little by this frustration, I think, but over the course of the three sections it became clear that this is a major work. It’s based partly on Derrida’s Glas, a text which I know nothing about. Hopefully at some point those more knowledgeable than I will be able to elucidate the importance of this. To describe the text a little, it’s in seven-line stanzas full of dense phoneme patterning maybe a little reminiscent of Prynne’s Blue Slides at Rest. Buried in my inbox I find Keston’s comments on the 2nd section, ‘Glossolalia’, published in Axolotl Magazine last summer:“I think it's pretty extremely fabulous. I've not seen anything quite like it, or I think I've not. There are likenesses of course, but there's something in it, in its handling of nearly regular accentual verse perhaps especially, that pulls it quite a distance from, say, recent books by Prynne, which might be the among the points of plausible comparison at first sight.”Quite. Another likeness might be Rodefer’s Four Lectures; The GlassBell contains a similarly sustained poetic of statement, though the juxtapositions are less abrupt. It sweeps all over the place with great beauty and no small degree of barely contained anger. I have ‘Glossolalia’ in front of me and I should quote a section to give an idea: Foreclosure and undermine. Sign seen writhing in the marsh advanced against sound, same noise plays to a glance and turns the viewer to stone. Do some vandalism on flowers, eagles, campsites and stations. Fail us, trick us, parcel real sensation up into a stink of nostalgia cash machines arrayed in furs throwing up over the parapet finished, unfinished no end subjected until nobody sees it:Ian’s reading, as I recall it, pushed this anger more and more to the front as the poem progressed. Real concentration, a text seriously worked and considered, no cheap tricks, no gimmicks. I guess there were about fifty people there, and they sat in rapt attention. I wish I could make more sense of it now, as I type this, to do the text and the reading more justice. It’s a stunning work, quite literally, and I urge everyone on the list to get a copy.By the time Raworth read it was dark outside (quick, someone make a ‘Clean and Well Lit’ joke). He read from two books, both, I think, due for publication some time this year. The first was a lost prose text from 1971, and it seemed to be strikingly relevant. Same political anger and frustration we encountered in Ian’s reading, though maybe with more laughs. I hadn’t seen Raworth before, though I’m familiar with the recordings. The speed, of course, was a thrill, and so was the fact that if he hadn’t told us, I doubt anyone would’ve known he was reading from a text nearly forty years old. Maybe there was alittle frailty in the reading, but it was fresh and the acute fierceness of observation stung even in the laughter. The second part of the reading appeared to be from a new manuscript, parts of which I recognised from Let Baby Fall. These were brief poems, about 5-10 lines each, and Raworth started at the back page and read maybe 15 or 20 of them. Someone said it was a little like a daybook, making record of daily outrage, absurdity marked in their frequently abrupt terminations. Neil Pattison and I had a conversation the day afterwards about how Raworth should really be poet laureate. No doubt he’d refuse any such position of obedience, but just imagine. The reading of the two works together, one old and one new, really impressed the sense of a life’s work in poetry, the totally admirable and beautiful dedication to it and all the difficulties that go with.In fact, it made a terrific pairing. My ears have been sweating, as Prynne would say, all weekend. As far as I’m concerned, the poetry being written in Britain at the moment is of the highest possible order. This reading was an encapsulation of all that’s important about it.See some of you in Brighton tomorrow, some of you at Parasol Unit on Thursday.What splendour.
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