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Saturday, 27 October 2012

Snow, poetry and other literary disasters

Ah, the British climate. Here’s what it was like this time last week.

And here’s what it was like last night.

The forecast had mentioned the possibility of snow. I’m afraid I thought they were exaggerating. I recall seeing it in October twice in my life. The first time was in 1974 - a few sleety flakes sweeping across the campus at the university of York, where I was a (very cold) gardener. The second was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now this.

Ah well… on with the weekend. I have my friend Jules Smith, poet, staying with me. We talk of books, and writing, and, since it is Saturday, of  football. Jules is an expert on, among others, Charles Bukowski (and the sad tale of Porsmouth F.C.). He wrote Art, Survival And So Forth, a critical biog of the man who was at one time the biggest-selling poet in the world. (

I have been urging him to consider a book commemorating the remarkable series of readings that took place in Hull, back in the 1980s and 90s. Poets of huge renown, such as Miroslav Holub, John Creeley, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy (now our Poet Laureate) read in packed, smoky pubs before crowds of over 100. Now that may not sound a lot, but I can assert that many a poet (or pair of poets) will be very happy if they can attract a couple of dozen to a provincial gig these days. Indeed, I once heard of a well-known wordsmith who turned up to read in a Cambridge library and found an audience of one - an elderly lady who, as soon as he introduced himself, shuffled away saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m in the wrong place.’

Literary disasters. Someone should compile a collection of anecdotes. My contribution would be a launch I attended in 1998. I was the author. I too had 100 guests, from all over England. My publisher, Lampada Press,  failed to provide any books.

A brief update on Carolyn Cassady. This weekend the New York Times is publishing a  piece about the Beat Museum in San Francisco. I have written to them, pointing out that while the Beat goes on San Fran, its pulse in the UK is weakening by the day.

You do what you can…. And I’m going to make some porridge. Winter’s here, right?

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