I went to my first proper poetry reading this week. The editor of the magazine ‘Poetry Wales’ introduced a number of poets she has published recently, including an old friend of mine, Samantha Rhydderch. You can see her website here.
It was a dingy basement in a west London cafe (the Troubadour), full of atmosphere and history. It became an unexpected pilgrimage from me, as three of my teenage heroes had played within these very walls: Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix. There were faded photos to prove it.
The whole event felt countercultural, even subversive. A group of wonderful, talented people, who could have shared their words with two billion people over the internet, simply by recording themselves at home and posting to YouTube. Instead of that, they chose to travel six hours on a train from Wales so that a tiny audience (50 at the most) could actually hear the sounds of the words as they came from their mouths, feel their breath, see them in the flesh, and taste the experience face to face.
Paper publishing itself is almost an anachronism. But the editor gave a lovely speech about how the printed word, above all for poetry, gives you a stillness and space in which to hold the words, that is simply not possible in any digital medium.
My favourite first line of the evening: ‘Every crashed marriage has its own black-box…’ (I’m writing from memory; and I apologise that I can’t remember the writer’s name – perhaps he can post his poem here…) My favourite newly discovered fact: That the lettuce was a sacred object in ancient Egypt.