Steven Waling has been to the underwhelming launch of overrated Northern poet Simon Armitage:
He was stood at the front, reading from a lectern and looked his usual slightly bemused Northern bloke, reading from his new book, Seeing Stars. He read well, but the whole event had the reverential air of a church service, with everyone else the members of the congregation listening respectfully to the man in the front giving us his wisdom.
I didn’t object to the poetry, which was, as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says about earth, mostly harmless. Quite amusing, in fact, with a slight frisson of soft surrealism here and there. Pretty much Armitage as usual. But a part of me wanted to get up and shout ‘Summer is in the trees! It is time to strangle several bad poets!’ not because the reading was bad, but just to puncture the atmosphere.
Here Steve has pinpointed a major flaw in contemporary poetry – the fact that because poetry is seen as such an exalted art form all poetry is received with a reverence it doesn’t always deserve.
Of course people should be able to hear and enjoy the poems – but Shakespeare could put up with the groundlings in the pit throwing beer over each other during his plays, and that should be good enough for any of us.
Steve contrasts the Armitage event with John G Hall‘s regular Paradox night:
There, with the addition of alcohol and the fact that it was in Sandbar, the atmosphere was much less reverential, and there was music too. In fact, I performed myself. I found myself feeling much more comfortable in that atmosphere. A bit worrying that, as I think I probably drank too much. On the whole I enjoyed the poetry too: and predicted that there was a new San Francisco Rennaisance happening in Manchester. Somewhat over the top, but like I say, I’d drunk a lot.
Steve is a fair man but I know which event I’d rather be at – and which event represents the future of Manchester writing.