Friday, July 24, 2015

I would like to read my work when I visit the Isle of Wight next week, but there will be no conventional performances.

I could never do a performance in front of footlights, with a thick curtain behind me, and so have come up with a new concept: if no one is there, I will be there anyway, at the site of Swinburne's grave at 8.45 p.m. on the 29th of July, reading "Paradox" and other poems. I have posted an announcement on my Facebook page. I don't expect anyone to be there, nor, consequently, any cause for me to read, and in that respect this gig is something that is hoped for whilst illusory and impossible to achieve.

I recently saw Carol Ann Duffy perform in a conventional venue in Winchester. I started thinking on my way home about what I might do, being as I am so adverse to the idea of performing my work, and then I thought about the dreams I have of seeing artists or poets, most recently Gerard Manley Hopkins. In those dreams, they are up close to me, not on a stage, and the light is soft, crepuscular, and I can smell their clothes, and talk with them, and the occasion feels both friendly and profound.

But of course they are dreams, where the air is always barmy. It is raining elsewhere in Hampshire today, and it will probably be raining on that evening in Bonchurch. Perhaps "the great missed gig" is missed already.

No One Came (update: 30th July)

In the forging of my poems, I rely on two forces: rejection and recognition. The event at St. Boniface church might be regarded as a calm and friendly meeting place in the lull between these two forces, a place to make sense of the paradox, an opportunity to see me read made deliberately obscure, so much that I envisaged no one would take it up.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was never published in his lifetime, and only six people, close friends of his, even knew that he wrote, so it follows that attendance for any reading he would have organised would have been small. With a time machine at their disposal now, surely tens of thousands of people would attend. And so it was that my gig at St. Boniface was conceived, mischievously with one eye on posterity as a "great missed gig".

Driving to the venue at Bonchurch, I marvelled at a rainbow and by extension its sharp reflection in the sea. Minutes later, nearing the time I was scheduled to read, the rain had stopped but the rainbow remained above where I stood alone in the graveyard; and then I saw how it was distending closer towards me, picked up by raindrops loosening from the branches directly above Swinburne's grave. It was the sole attendee.

Walking down towards the coastal path afterwards, past the stepped rooftops, imbrications within imbrications, I contemplated the plight of the migrants, and I looked through the window of a pottery workshop. What a lucky person, I thought, to be doing what they love doing so leisurely by the sea.

I could remain neglected in all eras, mildew warping the pagination of my manuscript, but I have, have now, but I feel, feel now, the sun’s warmth on my back as I sit in a Freshwater tea garden, near the thumbnail islets; as I watch a wagtail pecking at crumbs, and then spy through the window of a house bare walls, a light bulb without a shade, a caseless duvet before being made, things suggestive of unsettledness.