Monday 2 May 2011

Invitation to 2 poetry readings; films in strange settings; the new MPT website

I’m reading at the Torriano next weekend, along with Jane Speare and Kate White, hosted by Lisa Kelly.  Do come along: Sunday 8 May at 7.30, first half is open mic. 

The annual poetry evening at Greenwich Yacht Club is coming soon. Friday 27 May. This will be the 5th year we’ve held it, ‘we’ being the Greenwich poetry workshop.  John Hegley is coming as guest reader.  Years ago, the Yacht Club was a delightfully shambolic collection of rundown wooden shacks, on the east side of the Greenwich Peninsula.  Then the Dome was built, and the club had to be relocated a short way downstream.  The result was this!  Paid for by the Dome project: the best thing they did..?  It’s a wonderful venue, especially on a summer evening with the sun setting towards the north-west.

Greenwich Yacht Club, photo
From 7pm, 1 Peartree Way, SE10 0BW.  You can walk there along the Thames Path from North Greenwich tube.  There will be a bar, a free glass of wine and some open mic slots; contact for the open mic, or apply on the night.

Oona (see above) invited me to the Yacht Club this weekend for a film night: Zorba the Greek.  Perfect, with the river all around, and the boats’ rigging clanging in the wind, which I realised at one point my subconscious was assuming was goat bells.  I’d never seen Zorba before, despite having lived in Greece, and was a bit suspicious that it would be full of cod-Greekness.  In fact some of it was all too real…  The Zorba cliché is living-life-to-the-full Greek waking up an inhibited Englishman.  OK, Anthony Quinn is entertaining, but what about the lengthy scene in which the whole village stones a young, beautiful widow whom all the men fancy / fear, and then she gets her throat cut?  I’d never heard that mentioned.  Perhaps people would rather forget it, and stick with the comfort of the cliché.  As for the latter, why wasn’t there more of the dancing on the beach? 

The film reminded me that in Greece in the early/mid 1990s, 30 years after the film and 50 after the novel, Cretan men still had a bad reputation, at least with women.  They were supposed to be unloving and often violent.  (Of course they weren't all like that...)  Women turned to each other for tenderness, and there were – I was told – many lesbian relationships between married women.  I wonder if the men knew about it.  But in the Eastern Mediterranean, what went on in the women’s quarters wasn’t of interest to the men; I think there was still an element of this culture in Greek attitudes. 

Seeing a film in a strange place is always interesting.  A few years ago I saw Battleship Potemkin in a fortress in St Petersburg, with someone playing a piano accompaniment.  In the mid-1980s I lived in Poland and every now and then a film that contained the seeds of dissent would get passed by the censors; the few showings sold out, and at the end the audience would applaud.  I remember everyone applauding Bez Końca, No End, a Kieślowski film that ended with a suicide in a kitchen gas oven – because the film reflected what life under martial law had felt like.   

And I remember an archaeological dig in Italy: going to the cinema in the local town with Italian fellow-students, and being mystified when we went in halfway through the film, watched it to the end and then the first half, leaving at the point we’d come in at.  The whole audience was doing the same – coming and going throughout.  I’ve no idea what the film was, except that it did have a plot. 

MPT latest issue
Modern Poetry in Translation has a new website, which I’ve added to the links.  It’s full of interesting stuff.  Maybe it helped them get their increased Arts Council grant, well-deserved unlike some (why on earth did Faber get an increase!?)  There’s an online translation workshop.  There are ‘poetry postcards’: you can choose one of the books they’ve been sent for review, they’ll post it to you so that you can write a mini-review of it.  The best ones will appear on the website.  You can keep the book, or pass it on.  What a great idea – could be even better, if they stated what language each of the books is translated from. Sometimes this is obvious, sometimes it isn’t.  Also, why don’t they say whether the edition to be reviewed has a parallel text with the original poems?  Come on MPT, we’re not all monoglots! 

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