Thursday, 25 February 2016

Quite Contrary: Martin Stannard and Kim Addonizio - February 2016

I’m trying to keep up with my personal target of at least one post per month, although February’s been quiet. I’ve mainly been getting on with editing and so on, but this would not make for a very interesting post so I’m going to tell you about a reading I went to earlier on in the month. Martin Stannard came over all the way from China to read in Nottingham. Martin’s work is relatively new to me; I only came across one of his books last August. I had only come across the reviews. If you’re of a nervous poetic disposition and/or a fan of Simon Armitage, well especially if you’re a fan of Simon Armitage, watch out. It’ll sting. Martin described himself as ‘contrary’ on the night and, well, read this for yourself after this post. Anyway, I’m writing about the poetry now. Martin has done a lot for poetry. He edited the magazine Joe Soap’s Canoe from 1978 to 1993 and introduced many home-grown poets as well as lesser known American ones. You’ll find a great deal of work from the second generation of New York Poets and one edition was dedicated to the work of Paul Violi. He even published Simon Armitage too. I’d come across the excellent ‘The Ingredient’ in Anthony Wilson’s Lifesaving Poems and by a random act of happenstance received a copy of The Gracing Of Days which was published by Slow Dancer Press in 1989 and also featured that poem. All the pages are falling out of my copy, but that’s probably a good sign, as I’ve been reading it a lot.

A rare copy...

On the night Martin read from his new collection Poems for the Young at Heart which is published by Leafe Press and has a very nice endorsement on the back by Ian McMillan. Another poet once published in Joe Soap’s Canoe. Martin’s reading was funny. Honestly, you don’t often laugh your way through readings very often, and I for one enjoyed that. Intermingled with this were moments of Romance and acerbic commentary. All these elements sit together casually in the poetry. You can tell it’s very heavily influenced by the New York School and Frank O’Hara in particular. It’s conversational, follows its own inner logic and goes ‘on its nerve,’ as O'Hara once said and lots of people having been saying since.

Excerpt from  'A Few Words of Wisdom,' From The Gracing of Days...seems appropriate for a blog called 'Commonplace.'

I’m glad I went despite having a cold (I always have a cold) and drove home through the night with C Duncan’s latest album for company.   David Belbin has also written something about the evening, although his post includes some footage and a trip to A&E.



Someone else who’s quite contrary, but perhaps in a more openly emotive and autobiographical way, is the American poet Kim Addonizio. I’d been reading Wild Nights published by Bloodaxe last year on and off for a while now. I think I once wrote that when you enjoy a poem you don’t read it just once and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read ones like ‘Glass,’ ‘November 11’ and ‘Florida.’ Even though I’ve read the book I’m still returning to the poems. This collection is one of new and selected poems and goes back about twenty years or so. Kim’s poems are very upfront about relationships, love and sex.  There's a lot of drinking and harmonica playing too. We often use the phrase 'someone who’s lived it’ but I’d be inclined to say this is poetry by someone who isn’t afraid to write candidly about living. The poems themselves have a conversational, almost stream of consciousness style. There’s that word again, conversational. We seem to use it a lot when we talk about American poets, apparently UK poets don’t chat so much (apart from Coleridge). 

Kim’s book has spent a lot of time by the bed and in my kitchen; I just pick it up and dive in. I was trying to find an excerpt to share, but that felt very difficult as I don’t feel I can neatly quote from any poem without showing it in the context of the whole thing. I’ve found a recording of someone called, somewhat implausibly, Porridgebrain, reading out ‘Glass’ with a very English accent, but it's still very conversational, and ah, that last line, ‘I’m so in love with you I can’t stand up.’ 

Thank you, Porridgebrain. Until March.