Friday, May 09, 2008

Suona per Te

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?


Cailleach said...

Italian is a lovely language to listen to in any case - pleased that there was such a good crowd. Sometimes I wonder if poetry gigs were organised as other kinds of entertainment would more people attend... themed readings... bake-offs, puff-pastry, lemonade and poetry... do you think it might work?

Rob said...

from Sandy hutchison:

"Dear Rob: I'm happy you enjoyed the night right through to the parmegiano (in lumps) and beyond. How good to get such a complete crowd, full to the back, and with those levels of interest and enjoyment. Alessandro came in confidently from the start; and the Italians I talked to (and there were some heavy hitters there) were giving thumbs up on the translations as effective and adventurous. I'll just say they were begun unprompted, and are ongoing (with alacrity).

You didn't mention Jon Usher's introductory comments, which I was very glad/honoured to have: with a broad base of reference and some pointed things to say. They set a good tone too - which was part of the reason things connected.

Baraka is one word, by the way, for what people recognise and feel and respond to when something clicks or becomes absorbing. Robert Graves has a very good essay on it. It avoids the counterfeit, it is inherent in all kind of things from place to poetry to that old shirt or pair of shoes you just can't bear to throw out; though it's not the same as nostalgia. It's live, it's 'real sound in the air': and that's why and when people perk up and things get jumping and wine tastes better on the palate. best, Sandy"

Rob said...

Sandy, thanks particularly for mentioning Jonathan Usher's comments at the beginning. I had arrived late and missed them, so it's good to hear about them.