Thursday’s Poetry in the Basement celebrated Life. Lots of fantastic poets brought in their poems about the beauty, meaning and suffering that the thing called life is composed of. The feature poets doing longer sets alongside myself, Tom Bland and Roy Canty were Sean Keung and Laura Martin-Simpson. Laura is also performing at the Gypsy in the Field festival; Sean will do Until the Light Goes Out on October 7th.
I hosted the event and did two of my own poems in between: one about hating iPhones and one about death; this may have given a slightly negative image of my usual subject matters. Co-organisers Tom and Roy were also a bit on the dark side – but hey, all this dark stuff, c’est la vie. (I’m still fervently studying French.) I still don’t want to give the impression I’m not a life-loving person. Some of my poetry is a bit dark because that’s where I pour all the darkness so that I can light up outside the poetry. I also feel the need to add that after the Basement, I did not retreat to a dark corner to drink red wine and write about death, but spent the rest of the evening drinking Cosmopolitans and dancing at the Freud Bar, which is a fantastic (if a little pricey) cocktail place on Shaftesbury Avenue.
It is a common inside joke among poets that we don’t want to be too happy, because one needs to be miserable in order to write. My personal experience coincides with this stereotype to an extent, but lately I’ve begun to think that maybe it’s not about whether you experience happiness – it’s about how you experience it. Misery often needs to be contemplated; one needs to wallow in it a little in order to pass through it. You get close enough to misery, you spend enough time in it, and are able to write about it. But happiness, to me at least, is more like the herons in the Gary Miranda poem ‘Heron.*’ You have to catch it out of the corner of your eye, and might mistake it for something else, but if you get too close it’ll fly away. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Here’s a photo of a Holloway sunset, just for the sake of it.
Lots of love,
* ” […] a poet I know – an ex-lover –
says you have to catch them out of the corner
of your eye – herons, I mean. She’s probably right.
Still, I watch out for this one whenever I drive by,
the same way I watch for meaning to move slightly
beneath the cover of everyday events, whose grace,
too, has an edge of sadness to it – not like swans,
imposing their cool will on any landscape,
but like herons, which always let us believe,
if we want to, that they might be something else –
a reed, a fleck of shadow changing shape in the wind,
a thought: the things we love, visible like that.”
– Gary Miranda (1983)
from the collection Grace Period