The Wool Exchange is this grotesque place, church-like, with gothic arches and everything, and figures of either angels or very successful wool traders under the beams. Holding either harps or abacuses in their hands.
Plus, I only learnt at the reading that Waterstone’s had actually been bought by a Russsian billionaire – yes, one called Alexandr Mamut. I looked him up. He went to a specialised English language school, owns a Russian blog site Live Journal and has children who are Brezhnev‘s great-grandchildren. Colourful.
In the Soviet Union, where both this illustrious oligarch and I, a humble artist, were born, the slogan “Book is the greatest gift” was prominent. So, I’m thinking, did it ring in Mr Mamut’s head when he was buying Waterstone’s? ‘Cos to me, a post-Soviet person, any post-Soviet book store looks like a treasure cave. And when I first had any money at all I used to just buy books – for myself, for my friends – it was such a pleasure.
I read some of my poems that come from my Soviet childhood – too may, perhaps, as a member of the audience asked me if my writing was mostly nostalgic. I hope it is not, I just wanted to draw a biographical line, so to speak. From the Soviet Union to Todmorden. With love as a final chord – I thought I had thought it through, but apparently it was the whining about my golden childhood which stuck. However, one of my poems – the one about a motorcycle ride in summer – put one person in mind of Tarkovsky’s films. An unexpected praise: I never liked Tarkovsky, except for “Ivan’s childhood” – but that apparently was the very film that the person was thinking of.
As they were children in the audience, John read from his book Don’t Wear It On Your Head – and the poems were imaginative and funny, and from his Poems from a Northern Soul, out of which my favourite is Desire for Sight (after Lorca), which is actually on John’s website. While looking through the book, John said he should have called “There are no happy poems in this book”. Oh, well, what can you do. It’s the North for you.
Although, what am I saying? We’re alive. We write and listen to poetry. It cannot be that bad. 🙂
- Changes at Waterstones For Better or Worse? (julierkendrick.wordpress.com)