I’d seen Ruth Fainlight at the launch party and a week later went to have tea with her at her place in Notting Hill. We tried to recall the circumstances of our first meeting and dated it back to 1987, during my second long-term stay in London. It was a dinner party with the novelist Madison Smartt Bell and his wife the poet Elizabeth Spires. Ruth came with her husband Alan Sillitoe, whose novels I’d read, though I didn’t in those days know about Ruth’s poetry. She has just now published her New and Collected Poems with Bloodaxe. Because of that event and Alan’s death this past spring, it’s likely that 2010 will have proved a pivotal year for Ruth.
|Reform Club, Pall Mall|
From there we walked to a nearby Lebanese restaurant and had a pleasant dinner, a chance to catch up on each other’s news. A few days later, we both participated in a marathon reading as a benefit for The Long Poem magazine at a café near King’s Cross. Our bit done, we walked to a nearby restaurant and had dinner. Many topics touched on, including the fact that Mimi’s new and selected poems are now in production and will be out next year with Carcanet.
Europe House’s chief officer, a man named Scheele, launched the evening’s program. Then George read his commissioned poem, titled “The Door is Open,” concluding with this quatrain:
Here histories, manners, speech, vision, dance,
Commerce and custom, constitution, chance,
And strategy, seek concord and a voice.
Open the door. The house is yours. Rejoice.
After this, several ambassadors read poems in their language. We had Austria, Poland, Denmark, Romania, Spain, Estonia, Belgium and, as mentioned, Hungary. A translation was read after each poem, and then at the end Elaine read a few poems of her own (non-commissioned). Applause, closing remarks, then drinks and snacks. Finally, there was a dinner party for participants and their guests, an occasion for interesting conversations with others present. George had a train to catch so we left a little early, I saw him to his cab and then walked to the tube, returning the same way I came.
James Byrne and Sandeep Parmar, back in London after several months in New York, came to call and have a look at my sublet for this year. We had lunch here and engaged in an unbroken flow of talk about what we’ve been doing and writing. Sandeep is teaching at Wagner College now and finishing her book on the Modernist British poet Hope Mirrlees. James has one more term at NYU before he gets his MFA and is putting the finishing touches on the next issue of The Wolf, expected in January.
For those interested in looking up publications, I have a review of UA Fanthorpe’s complete poems in the current Poetry Review. Also, under Sudeep Sen’s editorship, a long poem published in an online journal called Molossus. The poem’s titled “Eleven Londons” and describes my stays in this great city from 1967 to 2007. Here’s the link:
A happy New Year to all.