Down at the Guitar Bar

I’ve a couple of Poetry & Jazz events coming up this month, the first of them this Wednesday, 11th, at the Guitar Bar in Nottingham.

Dave Belbin has been organising things here for a while now, all evenings featuring the hot little four-piece band led by trumpeter John Lucas – yes, that’s the same John Lucas who runs Shoestring Press and is an estimable poet himself. The usual procedure is to feature two guest poets, the first up on this occasion being the formidable Lydia Towsey.

J&P.jpg

That’s Lydia on the right …

Not sure if Lydia’s is going to read with the band – apparently some poets do, others prefer to go it alone – but I’m hoping they will join me for at least half of my set (or should that be, I’ll be joining them?) and after some discussion this weekend, John and I have sorted out the three poems that seem most suitable, all three, not surprisingly, in one way or another about jazz. Oklahoma Territory is a longish piece about  the big bands that criss-crossed the American heartland in the 30s and early 40s, Oklahoma Territory; Ghost of a Chance is a snapshot of tenor player Lester Young towards the end of his career; while Evenings on Seventy-Third Street, a poem I’ve rarely, if ever, read in public, and certainly not with accompaniment, extols the virtues of dill pickles, fried chicken and the wonderfully precise vocals of Lee Wiley. Here it is …

Evenings on Seventy-Third Street

Soft rock of traffic steadying down,
four pieces of chicken, fried potato chips,
dill pickles – ridged and thick as fingers –
coleslaw. Coke. Despite our best efforts
by the time we walk it home, circles
of grease, dark through the paper sack,
have stained your clothes and mine,
a smear across the silk blouse you bought
for best, below the spots where coffee
dribbled from your mug two nights before,
watching the news on tv.

While you snap the lock shut, slide
the bolt across, I am sharing food
onto paper plates; your book open,
face down where you left it,
pad on which I’m writing
is on the floor by my chair.
The radio, which we left playing,
chances its arm at a contemporary
string quartet and I sense you will
rise soon, licking your fingers
free from chicken, wiping them
to be certain, down your skirt,
before lifting Lee Wiley from the record rack –
the Liberty Music Shop recordings 39-49 –
singing songs of love, but not for me.

An hour now since either of us has spoken,
felt the need to speak.

 

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Intimations of Mortality

1.  An email this morning from a reader, saying that learning of Ruth Rendell’s serious illness had made her regret the fact that although she’d always meant to write and tell her how much she had enjoyed reading her work she had never done so and now it was, in all probability, too late. With this in mind, she continued, she wanted to tell me, while it was still possible, how much she had enjoyed my work over the years also.

2.  At last night’s poetry reading at Lauderdale House, I was delighted to remind Jeremy Robson of the Poetry & Jazz concert I’d been to at the Royal Festival Hall in 1969, in which he’d taken part, and to ask him to sign the programme I’d preserved inside the box set of recordings from the event. When we looked at the list of poets who had appeared – Dannie Abse, Thomas Blackburn, Douglas Hill, Laurie  Lee, Spike Milligan, Vernon Scannell and John Smith – we realised that Jeremy was the only one still alive.

 

 

 

Poetry & Jazz, Then & Now

Daughter’s earnest foraging amongst our vinyl collection yesterday morning (yes, the sound is richer and deeper) brought to light an item I had almost forgotten …

4187444… an Argo box set containing two LPs, in what was proudly announced as stereophonic sound, recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in 1969 and featuring the eight poets listed below, some, not all, reading with the Michael Garrick Sextet, which, as can be seen, featured a formidable front line of Don Rendell and Art Themen on saxes and Ian Carr on trumpet. It was a concert I well remember attending and there inside the box, to my delight, was the original programme …

P & Jazz

P & Jazz 2

 [Click on the above to see it more clearly]

The occasion was the 250th in a series of Poetry & Jazz events organised by Jeremy Robson, which had its beginnings in a reading at Hampstead Town Hall as early as 1961 and the first collaboration with Michael Garrick, at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry a year later.

Now Jeremy Robson, as it happens, will be reading at Lauderdale House in Highgate, North London, this Wednesday evening, along with four other poets – Chris Beckett, Simon Jenner, Stephen Watts and myself. If you’re anywhere in the area, do come along, it should be a fine evening. As far as I know, however, no jazz on this occasion, but I might point anyone interested towards two readings I’m doing in which jazz will be very much involved.

On Wednesday 11th February, Lydia Towsey and myself are guests of John Lucas and his Four in the Bar band at The Guitar Bar in Nottingham, and on Friday 27th February, Nancy Mattson and I are reading with the excellent four-piece Special Edition at the Dugdale Centre in Enfield.

Details of these events (and others) can be found here …