Excellent evening in the Italian Institute in Edinburgh yesterday. Alexander Hutchison would read a poem and Alessandro Valenzisi would then read his Italian translation. They alternated like that for about 45 minutes or so. Everyone in the audience was given a booklet, Suona per Te (after one of the poems), to mark the occasion with both English and Italian versions inside.
What was so good about it? Well, partly because Sandy is a good reader, relaxed and engaging, and Alessandro’s comments on the decisions he’d made with the translations were very interesting.
But there were other things too. It was largely a non-poetry-crowd, people I’d never seen before at a reading. That’s good in itself. Many of them had come because it happened to be in the Italian Institute’s programme, and people seemed to really like it. It’s not as though Sandy didn’t read any ‘difficult’ poems either. He read from a wide variety of his work, but didn’t leave out the more oblique pieces. However, the audience appreciated them as much as anything else. I kept hearing people saying how much they’d enjoyed themselves. I think it’s to do with sound and rhythm, the sheer energy of the word-choices, and also the wit in many of his lines. It made me feel more hopeful for the future reception of poetry than I have in ages. The usual story – when people hear good poetry, many respond positively to it. It doesn’t have to be dumbed down, served up with bells and tinsel, or come with a guide explaining what it’s all supposed to mean.
Afterwards in the reception lounge, the wine (Dolcetto d’Alba – ah! takes me back to my time in Torino) was good and the snacks – grissini wrapped in prosciutto crudo, bruschetta with tomatoes and with an aubergine mix, parmesan cheese etc – were fabulous.
After that came the Southsider Pub round the corner for a couple of Guinnesses, and then home. Good conversation, nice people, and a packet of crisps. What more could anyone ask for?