Before the John Kinsella reading
I go to The Hole to catch-up
with the Union Reps - Pityacker
and Smogmonster. Smogmonster
has been away for a few weeks
so I fill him in on movements
among the piano-fingered
professionals - the Oxygen Thieves -
over two pints of Guinness. There
is just enough time for him to tell
his joke that not everyone was pleased
when the Pits closed : he once spoke
to an out-of-work canary. The Hole
has changed since the smoking ban,
the front room in the commuter hour
used to be a workshop in tokable choices
- cigarette, roll-up, cigar, pipe, cigarello -
an Arcadian plume of passive exhalation.
Now it is clean the only smell is bad food.
Smogmonster puts the pressure on
to ditch the reading & have a few more
pints, watch the Man U V. Roma game.
I challenge him to say what he's thinking
about me going to a poetry reading -
he smiles : fuckin load of bollocks mate.
And this from one of the most intelligent
people I know - in argument, numbers,
negotiation, expression - he's just never
had a need for poetry & by the age of 47,
doesn't now. I think of Heaney's
Casualty & his friendship with a man
who didn't know he was a poet - how
he'd lift a "weathered thumb" to order
another drink. I have to run from The
Hole down to the Festival Hall to make
the start of the reading. Kinsella enters
in black jeans, black shoes, black Docs,
talks like a man in shock over his own life -
after self-abuse, death threats, discoveries
of his own
abilities & inconsistencies. There
is a real
present tension in the room between
the grit & traction of his diction & the need
to tell a story, for narrative digression:
metonyms for the poet could be his near-
drowning, as a child, on a wheat lake,
or being struck by lightning twice while
hugging a silver keg. An anarchist, owning
nothing, I think that Smogmonster would
have liked this, would have related in ways
that he wouldn't have guessed. There
are so many questions I want to ask but
the session ends as Kinsella needs to get
his cab. We head back to The Hole
and, no surprise, the Reps are still there

- beneath the clean ovaloid mirror -
they haven't even moved to watch the game.
I've got a copy of Kinsella's Shades of the
Sublime & Beautiful in my pocket, to read
on the tube back to Dagenham, but first
there is the irreverent rush towards Last
Orders. Poetry has done a find & replace
on 'boast', 'anecdote', 'joke' - or amost:
Smogmonster, merrily-bullish, says that
Dylan is the only poet he's had need of -
then announces his party piece, singing
Blowin in the Wind in Swedish


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