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Into Spender’s Canyon

14/03/2009

What can I say about Wednesday night’s launch of The Ambulance Box and The Opposite of Cabbage at the Scottish Poetry Library that isn’t already in the reports by Peggy at the SPL (who does the name dropping for us), Colin Will and Rob himself?

Rob is right to say it couldn’t have gone any better. It was a fantastic, really celebratory atmosphere. The library was packed. Apparently, we had 67 bodies through the door. (No wonder there were folk standing on the stairs!) When the library’s reader development officer Lilias Fraser said there’d been concerns about the mezzanine floor’s ability to take the weight, I didn’t think she was being serious but with numbers like that …

Anyway, the launch was scheduled to begin at 7 pm. From about 6.55, I was stuck at the punters’ side of the librarians’ desk signing books for about half an hour. I had to make an effort to break off and slip into the lift (there was little hope of getting easily up the stairs) and up to the mezzanine, where Rob and I read.

Rob and I had agreed that whoever kicked off in Glasgow last week would go second this week, so I read first. Here’s my set list:

  1. “Pedestrian”
  2. “Improvisation for the Angel who Announces the End of Time”
  3. “The Meisure o a Nation”
  4. “The Ambulance Box”
  5. “The Invention of Zero”
  6. “Lullaby”
  7. “Dream Family Holiday”
  8. “Notes to Self”

and a picture of me reading said set, taken by my friend and colleague, Diarmid Mogg:

Rob read another great set (you can see his set list at his post). His is a fresh, distinctive, intelligent and sophisticated voice. It’s a huge pleasure to read alongside him. I certainly hope people in the poetry world and wider reading public sit up and take notice of it. They should.

Once we’d read, the two of us sat for ages at the table signing more books and chatting to people. Here’s another photo — a cracking shot; the same one as is on the SPL blog — by Diarmid by way of illustration:

Afterwards, Rob and Katy Evans-Bush, who had come all the way up from London for the event, joined me and members of my family at Empires Turkish Cafe for a meal. The mezze, main courses, Turkish coffee and company were all excellent. Empires is definitely to be recommended. The coffee didn’t even keep me awake when I finally stumbled home off the last train back to Linlithgow.

I really must repeat my thanks to the SPL staff for all their hard work and more. They set everything up: book table, wine table, crisps and seating. They poured the wine and dealt with the money. They looked after not only our bags but Katy’s. They provided those little sticky strips that make for much less fumbling about the book when you’re reading (God bless you, Lilias!). They coralled and herded the guests when needed and Lilias introduced the reading. They cleared up and cashed up. And they did the whole lot with smiles, warmth and enthusiasm.

And that post title? Well, my friends Kenny and Jane who came along gave me a card with this quotation from Spender on the front:

A modern poet launching forth his slim volume today is like a person dropping a feather over the edge of the Grand Canyon and then waiting for the echo.

Inside, it simply says:

XXXXXXXXXBANG! BANG!
XXXXXXXBANG! BANG! BANG!
xxxxxBANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

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