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
2. Concentration
3. Light Storms from a Dark Country
4. At the Harry Potter Launch
5. Advice to the Lion-Tamer on becoming a Poetry Critic


Colin Will said...

Sounds like a great night Rob. And I'm very pleased that chapbooks were bought - hope the same thing happens at the SPP Pamphlet Fair.

Matt Merritt said...

Great stuff, Rob! I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was great to see you and everyone else. As you say, it was one of those readings where everything seemed to work off everything else.

Anonymous said...

Rob - and Matt, since I've read your report too - wonderful reports from you both, and Tania has been talking about it non-stop ever since! See you soon - James

Anonymous said...

Yes, I enjoyed it hugely too - a great venue, a welcoming and most responsive audience and excellent readings from you all. And for the company, chat and all the rest, thanks - it was good fun!

Anonymous said...

Damn, that sounds like the perfect reading! Wish I'd been there.

(Weird: the random word verification Blogger just supplied to me is "poett"!)

Liz said...

Hi Rob, love the rundown...sounds good...would love to be able to attend such events. Really like your poem titles - I've got your chapbook on my Christmas wish list : )


trish ace said...

Hey Rob - thought I'd check out your blog again now that I know people are talking about me behind my (scary) back! Just to get the story straight, Fin and I ordered our hot chocolates at Subway and then decided we'd prefer a quick half; however, Carlisle was beginning to look like the wreck of the Hesperus by that time on a Friday night so we abandonned ship and headed back to the B&B. I think I'd peaked too early on the boozing front. When we arrived in Carlisle, around 4.30 pm, the B&B was all locked up. We'd just phoned Helena to ask about it when Matt turned up and we had no choice but to head for the pub, which was a couthie wee place. A few pints of Stella later, I remembered I was doing a reading in a couple of hours. Luckily my partner has unique ways of sobering me up (which is why I take him along to these events)! Like Tania, Fin was very impressed with the readings and he has been to a few in his time, so he should know. A triumph for the Happenstance Pets! When's the next date on the tour?

Andrew Shields said...

I'd love to have heard the jam between "Light Storms" and "Harry Potter."

The old Deadhead always assumes there is a jam between items in setlists. :-)

Rob said...

Good to hear from you all, folks.

Colin, I'm already looking forward to the pamphlet fair.

Dave - 'poett'!... that word verification is the weirdest ever.

Liz, I am eternally grateful to you, and to anyone else, who actually forks out to buy my chapbook!

Trish, thanks for the real story. The next date? How about next week somewhere warm and sunny - South India, for example.

Andrew, I'll remember to pack my alto sax next time...

Andrew Philip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Philip said...

Just let me grow slightly green with envy!

Now let's reverse the change in my complexion with a hearty cry of "Gaun yersels, the HappenStancers!"

Rob said...

Andy - next time you publish a book, just make sure you don't sell out earlier than everyone else! That way, you'll be on all the tours.

Colin Will said...

Alto sax Rob? Mine is up in the loft, but I'd bring it down and practice if you fancy a duet some time.

Rob said...

Mine isn't in the loft, but I am also sadly out of practice. A few years ago, I thought I was getting quite competent, but I'd have to put in a lot of effort in to get back into form. Maybe in 2008?

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob
Just caught up on this after our expedition from Yorkshire. Pat & I also looked for food in Carlise but ended up in a Kebab shop in Penrith which seems a party animal kind of place...good chips too.

We had a great night - readings were all excellent and a good atmosphere. Well done and thank you to all...worth the journey.

Hope to see you at the SPP Fair next week?

Rob said...

Good you made it, Hazel. Yes, I'll be at the pamphlet fair on Wednesday.