Monday, February 25, 2008

Of Poetry and conferences...

I've had a week away from Manchester. I didn't mention it here, since you never know what enterprising book thieves might be reading; and also, it was with work mostly, so not necessarily exciting. It involved London, Cambridge, Lichfield and London again and more meetings than is strictly good for you, or, for that matter, productive. In between times I found time for a curry in soho, a bottle of wine at Gordons, 4 secondhand books - all scifi (China Mieville, Philip K. Dick and William Gibson), a visit to the Poetry School and today, at the conference there was even a poet in residence. In other words there was quite a bit of slippage between my various life roles. and quite a sense of dislocation as I ran from one prearrangement to another. Amidst it all I found myself catching up with a few old friends, as well as meeting some new people. Most of these was first life, rather than second life or any other virtual life - my email inbox had gone to sleep in my absence. After doing a presentation this morning I was very glad to take some time out this afternoon, where the Arts Council conference offered a number of more holistic options including a "magic space" where we were able to use books, pictures and music to reflect and tell our own stories. Usually, I guess this touchy-feelly stuff would annoy me inordinately, so far from the day-to-day reality of one's working life, but today it gave me an excuse to move away from projecting about ones project, and take a more holistic approach to the day. What will you take away from today? they asked. I chose a picture of a mosaic: sometimes I find myself concentrating so much on the individual pieces - the mundane, if you like - that I begin to lose sight of the bigger picture and today had reminded me that however broken off and uninspiring were the individual pieces, that I should go back to thinking about the picture. I was pleased to see the conference had a poet in residence, Jackie Wills, and I got to thinking (not for the first time) that every conference should have a poet in residence, perhaps it would create some interesting dialogues.

"So who are you working for?"
"I've got IBM this week, PriceWaterhouseCoopers next."
"They pay well I guess?"
"Yes, but its soulless stuff...what about you?"
"Some arts council gig."
"How's that?"
"Oh you know, all touchy feely, and everyone's so young..."

I was reminded, again not for the first time, how impossible it is to keep all the UK's poets in one's head. Reading a couple of her poems as part of the "magic spaces" part of the day, I remembered how good Arc books often were, and maybe I should explore their list much more. Poetry is like something out of Alice in Wonderland, with each publisher having their own little fiefdom, jealously guarded, sometimes unknown outside of itself. Not that I'm writing any poetry at the moment; though I did manage half of two stories during the last week - which will be fine and dandy as long as I find time to write the other half before I forget how they end!

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