Tuesday, March 20, 2007

StAnza 2 - What I Bought

What one buys at a poetry festival must say something about what stood out from the crowd. But for me it isn’t that simple. I was under strict constraints, partly because my bank balance this month is pretty hopeless, and partly because I’m trying not to buy anything unnecessary during Lent.

However, I felt it would be wrong not to buy books from fellow poets, especially when I was hoping people would buy my book. But what I bought doesn’t tell the whole story, as there were books I really wanted to buy but couldn’t, because I’d already fulfilled my quota for the day.

Sometimes I wanted to buy a book after seeing a poet in performance, such as Mario Petrucci, whose reading was terrific - particularly his poems on Chernobyl - and Mimi Khalvati, whose performance was reflective and engaging. Other times it was because I thoroughly regretted missing a performance after glancing through a poet’s book, or because (as well as the poems) I liked the poet as a person – Imtiaz Dharker, for example, on both counts, and Ron Butlin (whose reading I did see) on the second count.

I wouldn’t buy a book from a poet I liked personally but whose work was poor (well, not usually), but the reverse scenario doesn't follow i.e. when a poet is obnoxious and his/her poems are great. I did buy Mark Strand’s book, even though he came over to me as very grumpy. His poems were great though.

Two poets I did like personally: Jen Hadfield’s reading was a delight and her book looks excellent. Michael Laskey did a fine reading, which combined depth and wit.

The chapbooks all appealed to me because the opening poems were good. I bought each on the strength of that and I now hope the remaining poems will match up.

So here’s what I bought:

Books

Selected Poems – Mark Strand
Almanacs – Jen Hadfield
Permission to Breathe – Michael Laskey

Chapbooks

Smoke – Jenni Daiches
When Now Is Not Now – Alastair Reid
Three Little Ninjas – Chloe Morrish
Mackerel Wrappers – Martin Cook

And here are poets whose books I really wanted to buy, and will do in the course of the year:

Ron Butlin
Mario Petrucci
Imtiaz Dharker
Mimi Khalvati

8 comments:

Angie said...

I've been working slowly through Strand's Blizzard of One and appreciate the writing, but can only take a little at a time.

I'm intrigued by Petrucci now. Maybe a copy will find its way into the PFFA book swap...Looking forward to your impressions of the new books!

Rob said...

Angie, you can read some of Mario Petrucci's poems at his website. The last two poems are from Heavy Water, the collection that dealt with Chernobyl.

Colin Will said...

Petrucci's poems are definitely worth reading. His StAnza reading was superb, although the subject matter was harrowing. It left me feeling that bearing witness to the human effects of events like Chernobyl is one of the most important duties of a writer. Ruth Padel said something similar.

apprentice said...

I bought Almanacs too and I'm really enjoying it. Her reading was wwonderful, such talent in that slim frame.

Rob said...

Colin, yes, I think bearing witness is important and poetry can capture elements that nothing else can.

apprentice - yes, she is a very talented writer. I ran into her in the bar that evening and she was good company too.

Angie said...

Thanks for that link, Rob. His essays look interesting, too. I appreciate it.

Aisha said...

As Head Nun I tell you, my child, oyu were damn right to buy opetry: it is charity! it is educational! it is The Right Thing To DO :)

Rob said...

Thanks for the absolution, Aisha!