Saturday, September 21, 2013

September Update

I've been to two poetry readings in the last two weekends; the 2nd Peter Barlow's Cigarette last Saturday and Poets & Players today. Today was Carcanet poet Jane Yeh reading from her two collections at Manchester' Chinese Arts Centre. Yeh's stock-in-trade is a certain kind of tempered irony where the humour of her pieces - often full of pop-cultural references - sugars more serious messages. In some of the poems she read today, she takes on a ventriloquist role, writing in character. Poets and Players afternoon sessions mix up music and poetry and usually I tend to prefer one to the other, but today, Yeh's reading was matched with Li Lu's violin-cello duo tackling a rarely played Ravel piece. Last week, 4 poets read at Peter Barlow's Cigarette's 2nd outing, the highlight being Melissa Lee Houghton reading from her forthcoming Penned in the Margins collection "Beautiful Girls." Other readers Lauren Bolger, Andrew Taylor and Luke Samuel Yates completed a good evening.

I've needed a bit of poetry as an interlude as I've been away with work for most of the last fortnight, first to Lisbon and then to Brussels and Amsterdam. A productive fortnight, but inevitably tiring. Lisbon was a new city to me and I instantly fell in love with the city; Brussels and Amsterdam I know well, but never disappoint.

This coming week is more about art than literature as there's the Buy Art Fair and especially the Manchester Contemporary next weekend.  This is a great chance to experience some sample artists from some of the region's best and most critically acclaimed galleries. There's also "open studios" at Manchester's Rogue Studios from next Friday night.

The following week is the 2013 Manchester Literature Festival - as ever there are so many events that I can't really single one or two things out as yet, though Sarah Churchwell on Gatsby must be one highlight. Not part of the festival, but equally compelling, will be the next episode of the Other Room, where The Dark Would, a massive anthology of visual poetry, is being featured. 

In Amsterdam I picked up the new Salinger biography by David Shields and Shane Salerno. I'm always a little ambivalent about biographies; since on the one hand I believe that it is the writing, not the writer that matters (and surely Salinger must be the ultimate of that), I'm also fascinated by the lives of writers - the mistake, I think, is to equate the work with the man (or woman) as autobiography, and "Reality Hunger" author Shields has form here; but at the same time as a writer myself, I've found reading about the writers I love, being an important part of my literary education. There's inevitably a fascination in knowing what was the crucible in which "Catcher in the Rye" or other great works was formed.

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