I am referring to a reading with Ian Wild, Pat Boran and Alan Garvey at the beautifully programmed Cork Spring Literary Festival last Thursday night. It was held in the Metropole Hotel, a venue I last graced during one of the infamous Jazz weekends of my college days, this one in particular being a weekend of damage, myself out sick from where I worked in the chipper across the road from the hotel, as I had cut deeply into my finger at the time, acquired during a fancy dress at Sir Henry's some time in the previous few days, where I was appropriately dressed as a nurse, and got a good ribbing from the bouncers who surgi-strip-stuck it all back together, while craftily getting me to sign the "I will not sue this place" form at the same time.
Anyway - the metropole was the only place to recuperate from such exertions and boyfriend at the time had a free ticket for me and I remember it being an absolutely crazy dream-like place with jazz and vibes of all types going on in every room of the whole big place - from huge luxurious ballrooms, to the nookiest nooks and cranniest crannies - pure celebration and devastation. Anyway, I digress.
In a somewhat more mature frame of mind I entered the reading room. It was a small setting, but there were plenty of seats, and video cameras, and microphones - high tech. I was impressed, but then, I'm easily impressed. Ian Wild - an editor of Southword and judge of the upcoming Sean O Faolain prize was first to take the stand. He read to us from a novel he is working on, in which a bunch of old timers set up a punk rock band somewhere in a gentle rolling village of England. I can see the film already in my minds eye, and yes Bill Nighy is going to play the lead. One of my favourite parts of the reading was when an elderly rebel in front of me tried to light a cigarette, and was warned off this course of action by his companion, he then responded by saying, too loudly, "I know sure you can't smoke anywhere now, can ye?" It was like the hero of the book had come to life in the audience. The best parts of the reading were when Ian read the lyrics of some of the oldies pop songs, including lines like "I hate everything but especially you" and "Young people are crap"
Next up was Alan Garvey who quickly dispensed with the microphone altogether. His reading was a variety of poems, most of them about real people, whose pictures he had brought along with him, and whose stories he told us in brief before he said the related poem. The pictures and the stories about the people were so fascinating that I found myself impatient during the actual poems, waiting for him to get on to the next hero. They were all historical and sobering stories, the 15 year old girl shot while she tried to help a friend, a hungarian poet who died in a death march whose last 10 poems were found in his rain coat perfectly preserved years later. I found myself curious to read the work of the people he wrote about too, Keith Douglas, for example, who died only a couple of days into his Normandy invasion - again my friend in the row ahead provided comic relief during that one when he started getting annoyed about a reference to Cambridge, "Why are they always giving out about Cambridge like?" He was taking umbrage to the tone of the reading, "what's wrong with Cambridge like?" Anyway, Alan finished on a light note - with a poem about Lingerie, which was probably my favourite actual poem of his, though I had found the whole reading fascinating.
Finally we had Pat Boran, he's been on my book shelf a while in the shape of his creative writing coursebook, but we won't hold that against him, anyway - he was definitely a happy note to end on. He gives the feeling that he hasn't planned what he's about to read at all, in fact he gives this feeling by stating it as a fact, but he seems to have a vast repertoire to choose from and in his own modest manner was the one performer of the night to give me that hairs standing on end sensation that often makes live poetry so well worth attending. His poems all seemed to be from and about his own direct experiences, some about things mundane as a car alarm, and finishing with an epic and lovely one about the place you grew up and all the reasons you ever couldn't walk down main street that especially rang a bell with me. A gentle, but very satisfying poet to listen to.
Then it was nearly nine of the clock, so my tired self and mini me couldn't wait to get ourselves home to bed, and therefore that is where we went, missing the rest of the night's readers, and indeed the whole rest of the fest, but it was plenty to be going on with.