Do Your Home Work

30 Jun

I used to hate poetry. When I was in my early teens, I used to write dreadful poems about being sad and having rubbish friends. At school, we did the war poets, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, and I bloody loved Chaucer. But somewhere along the line, poetry and I fell out. At university I was bored by Auden, Gray and Keats (Ah, Keats…How I hated your grecian urns). I somehow avoided all the poetry courses, and by the time I graduated, I completely mistrusted a literary form in which a few words possessed what I saw to be a disproportionate amount of meaning.

But somehow, I found my way back via The New York Poets and e.e. cummings. I now find myself reading an extremely detailed account of Allen Ginsberg’s life by the pop culture historian, Barry Miles. And going to poetry readings, like some kind of beatnik! Last month, I went to see the wonderful Molly Naylor at the Battersea Arts Centre. In Whenever I Get Blown Up, I Think of You, she tells her story of the 7/7 London bombings; how she came to be on the train that morning, and how she put things back together in its aftermath. Warm and clever, her narrative totally captivated me. As Jonathan Coe has written about the show, ‘it makes you tilt your head to one side and look at the world in slightly different way.’ For me, Naylor provided an engaging personal perspective on a tragedy that still haunts London commuters and newspaper headlines. She’s still on tour, so check out her website to find out where to catch her.

This week, I was also lucky enough to catch Home Work at the Bethnal Green Workingman’s Club. A monthly evening, showcasing the work of Aisle 16, an exciting collective of young poets that includes Joe Dunthorne, author of Submarine and the best multiple-choice poem I’ve ever heard. This month’s theme was conspiracy theories: cue some excellent writing about aliens, assassinations and artificial intelligence, including the amazingly long ‘A Very Short Poem’ by Tim Clare and the utterly brilliant Every Rendition on a Broken Machine by Ross Sutherland. Anything that blends clips from Clarissa Explains it All, 2001: Space Odyssey and footage of a robot kicking a teddy bear into a lake, with Coleridge’s musings on poetry, J G Ballard on technology and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein gets my vote. An expansive yet cohesive voyage into the battle between the computer’s brain and the poet’s soul, it was an inspired piece of both film and spoken word. Excellent stuff! To find out more about Aisle 16 and its various members, check out their website. I highly recommend you catch the next assignment on July 27th.

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