I’m going to write something about Brighton. I was lured out by the sun and by a visit from my friend Patrick, so I played the tourist a while and thought it was time I shared something of the best of Brighton. Three days is not enough to do everything in Brighton, I discovered, but we did manage to do quite a lot. Read on for a travel diary of an illicit midweek holiday…
It has been a delightful week here in Brighton: waking up to the feverish blue sky on Monday I knew we were in for a treat. It is the first week of the Easter holidays and I was ready to begin some serious work on my term papers, but then my friend Patrick came to visit with Lance (my new friend, oui?!) and it all went to hell; or, more likely– to the sea.
To the sea. They arrived early on Tuesday and we took the bus down to town and sat awhile on stony Brighton beach drinking beer from Fortune of War and I could have stayed there just about forever, if only it could stay warm. Furthermore, the days are just too short. A cup of seafood on the beach costs £1.50. Cockles, mussels and whelks: you know, that’s pretty good; that’s cheaper than candyfloss on the pier (£1.80 for a small one, small turned out to be pretty big though). After the beach then, pubs and fish and chips from Bardsley’s on Baker Street near London road, which we ate in the park. On the way to fish and chips a guy with a guitar asked me for 28p for some juice; we saw him again in the park and true enough he did have juice, a whole carton of apple and mango.
Decisions to make: two poetry nights on in different places. John Haynes was reading somewhere, but there was also a Hi Zero poetry reading, and that was the one we ended up going to, since we knew where that one was happening and didn’t know where John Haynes was. Hi Zero took place at the Hope, there was a good crowd, we had excellent seats at the front and right next to the bar (perfect) and there was a good atmosphere. A little high, we were eagerly anticipating some words. Words were what we got.
The first poet was Danny Hayward and I enjoyed his words a lot but I had trouble keeping them all together in my mind. A linear experience I did not have, rather, it was fragmentary. I think I experienced his words in a curious way, just as words, with no meaning attached beyond the sensations that each fragment produced immediately and very briefly on my insides (like smoke from the lips: a rose blooms, dissolves immediately).
I had the opposite trouble with Luke Roberts who spoke next. Although I liked his words, the first poem seemed to me to be a series of innuendos, playing with ways to describe sex, or the act of sex, all to do with sex. I’m not sure if that was just me. I’m not sure if it was intentional. But for the rest of his time I couldn’t stop thinking about sex and that first poem and I barely heard the words.
My enjoyment, my experience, unfortunately, seemed doomed to decline with each successive poet. I enjoyed the first poems a lot; the second reading a little less, and the third poet, Frances Kruk, left me unimpressed indeed. The basic problem was the amount of feeling she put into her speech; whereas the first two poets had read their poems in a fairly straight way, playing more with the rhythm and speed of the words than with tone of voice, Kruk was, to me, like an actor giving a performance, and I railed against this from my gut thinking if only let the words speak for themselves, and then I might have heard them. As it was, I heard nothing, not a word. Perhaps, however, this is just a story or a debate as to whether or not being high at a poetry reading is actually beneficial.
The Hi Zero event was, I thought, a success, and I would and will attend another. But I would have liked to see a greater variety in poetic style. It all felt very Sussex University, which is nice (I go there after all; I rather love it), but it was almost as if the poetry I heard, all of it, was just a little too intellectual, and I didn’t experience any great feeling of either innovation or beauty. That said, I have already admitted that I know nothing about poetry. One thing though: a poetry reading is a surprisingly different experience to reading a poem. The singularity of the occasion impressed me deeply – that which I caught, that which I did not follow… – hearing a poet read his or her work the way they would like to have it read; that was interesting. I would recommend anyone with an interest in literature or language to go to a poetry reading to hear for yourself.
Tomorrow: a list of pubs and some jazz.