Saturday, December 01, 2007
The Carlisle HappenStance Poetry Party
The photo is from the HappenStance reading in Carlisle on Friday evening at the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery. Six of us were involved:
L-R: Matt Merritt, James Wood, Eleanor Livingstone, Trish Ace, myself, and Helena Nelson.
It was a really terrific night, one of those readings that seemed to make a connection with the audience and came alive in a way that none of us could have predicted. The first half involved each poet reading about three poems apiece. The second half constituted two poems and a few minutes of waffle about ourselves, our plans, our current activities, and in my case, this blog. If anyone from the uniquely receptive Carlisle audience has found Surroundings – a warm welcome, and thanks for a highly enjoyable evening.
[for another angle on the event, have a look at Matt Merritt’s report]
I was close to not making it at all. After waiting ages on a bus to Haymarket station, it crawled all the way, stopped at every stop, and I’d just stepped onto the platform when the train to Carlisle rolled in. The train was full, the guy next to me had BO, but my Collected James Schuyler took my mind off things. What a fantastic writer he was, my favourite of all the New York School poets, despite my only realising this in recent months.
I had met Eleanor and Helena getting on the train, and Matt was at the B&B when we arrived. We were told that Trish, her husband, James and his girlfriend, were at the Howard Bar, but they weren’t. Eventually Trish turned up, but James had disappeared. Nobody knew where he was or how to track him down. However he did turn up at the venue, a room in a spectacular Art Gallery, complete with bar and ideal acoustics.
The readings were all good – very entertaining and engaging – and the audience were terrific. They also bought loads of chapbooks. There were only three or four chapbooks left by the end of the gig. As far as I know, all of mine were bought – that’s a first!
Afterwards we tried to find food in Carlisle, but even though it hadn’t hit 10pm, the people of Carlisle had stopped eating and moved onto more liquid pursuits. We walked about the city and asked in every café and restaurant we came across, but no one would serve us. Perhaps they’d been tipped off that the poets were in town. We found an Indian restaurant that still seemed fairly lively, but were told that the chefs had just left the building. A taxi driver sent us to a Thai place that looked as if it hadn’t opened in years. There were two chip shops near the train station but it was cold and drizzly and no one wanted to wander about for any longer. We found a Subway café and bought sandwiches. Mine was laden with jalapeno chillies that set my mouth on fire. I would have gone out for a drink afterwards, but Trish ordered a hot chocolate, which suggested to me that the night was drawing to a close, and indeed, two minutes later, we were on our way back to the B&B. However, I believe Trish and her husband followed up their hot chocolate with a night on the town - one strength of good poets is the ability to do things in the wrong order.
The next morning, we all had breakfast, gathered around the table in front of the Christmas tree as if we were a family on Christmas Day – all that was missing were the crackers and daft hats. Afterwards, on the way to the station, the Salvation Army band were out playing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and other carols, so the commecialism all around us made a temporary retreat - at least until we passed a well known DVD/CD shop with the slogan on its windows, Take the Nightmare out of Christmas!, as if Christmas had been a nightmare before all these guys with their slogans came along.
Oh, and my obligatory setlist:
1. While the Moonies are Taking Over Uruguay
3. Light Storms from a Dark Country
4. At the Harry Potter Launch
5. Advice to the Lion-Tamer on becoming a Poetry Critic