arts \ ego blog — james fenton

I went across to PN06 (Poetry Now, in Dublin) last weekend, partially as an excuse to visit an old friend and her new husband.

I suppose I should have expected not to find it as refreshing as, say, the CCCP (… er … I’m reading there this year) or the Poetry Summit, because these two conferences present innovation in poetry, and new ideas excite me.

All the same, there were some excellent readings, and I was introduced to some interesting poets unfamiliar to me. I have to follow up Bill Manhire, Yusef Komunyakaa, Alice Oswald … and apologies to those poets I missed.

I have to admit, though, James Fenton completely caught me out. I’ve read and not enjoyed his rather dry lectures in the Guardian. I’ve read his poetry and thought, “no, it just doesn’t quite work for me”. Well, now I’ve heard him, I know why his poetry didn’t quite work for me. The poem on the printed page doesn’t play his tune, you need his tune to make his poems dance. He takes the clay of the page and makes that golem dance. Hear him.

The mainstream is alive and well and has some excellent poets.