Thursday, July 14, 2011

Business as Usual

Dragging myself away from the News International scandals (and trying to wonder why since everyone I know has been suspicious of the "Digger" and his nasty little newspapers for as long as I remember, the political class are only just realising it. Reminds me (as many things do) of the tale of the frog and the scorpion).... as I say, dragging myself away.

In Birmingham on Monday I had a long-overdue visit to the magnificent city Art Gallery. As well as sitting there enthralled by Epstein's "Lucifer" I spent some time with their pre-raphaelites, read about the progress of the Staffordshire hoard (which was dug up a couple of miles from where I grew up), and had lunch in the wonderful Edwardian Tea Rooms. The real reason for going was to see the "Home of Metal" exhibition in the basement. Something strange hearing Black Sabbath, Diamond Head and Napalm Death in an art gallery. Birmingham's attitude to culture always seems a little ambiguous. I looked in vain in Waterstones for any Roy Fisher. Still writing at 80, he seems a nearly invisible figure, even in the city where he came from.

I'm writing about the West Midlands - partly about my own past, but partly the landscape, partly trying to uncover the somewhat hidden literature of the city - and it strikes me that there remains a literary hole of sorts, despite the usual preponderance of literary festivals etc. The Lichfield festival this week has brought in Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke as the main poetry event. The recovery of the Staffordshire Hoard reminds us that Mercia was once a powerful kingdom. I wonder what its "national" literature would look like?

There's a sense of overstimulation elsewhere as the Manchester Festival continues in the city. I've hardly had a chance to see the main events, never mind the fringe, though was so glad I went to see one of my musical heroines, Rickie Lee Jones, on Sunday night.

There's quite a lot of static on the poetry airwaves at the moment. Like buzzing fly at the window I can't quite ignore the furore over the Poetry Society/Poetry Review whilst realising that it has little relevance/resonance for me, either as a poetry reader or writer. Poets, despite the popular perception, do seem to like a scrap - a shame that this one appears to be about the administration rather than the art. The Forward Prize shortlist is the usual mix of the well-known and the new, and you get the sense that "prizes" are now the poetry equivalent of patronage, great if you get them, furiously derided if you don't.

Little pleasures continue: there's an Oxfam "book jam" on Sunday night in the Northern Quarter at Apotheca ; there's a competition to write "quickies" (adult flash fiction - that's what happens when you let the Chorltonites into the Didsbury festival!); the Other Room returns with its packed summer programme, next Wednesday; and Kate Feld is running a workshop on creative non-fiction leading to a competition for this year's literature festival.


Sarah-Clare Conlon said...

Hey Adrian, thanks for the lovely mentions for FlashTag and the Oxfam Bookfest shindig.

There is a link to Sunday's event page on Facebook on my blog...

Thanks again! xClare

Adrian Slatcher said...

Ah cool - did look on your blog but you've been blogging LOADS and I missed it.