Thursday, October 18, 2012

Looking at things differently

Paul Farley & Deryn Rees-Jones, Monday 15th October, 6.30pm, John Thaw Studio Theatre, Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama

Words by Benjamin Judge.

It is all about seeing.

Or maybe not all, but some of it is definitely about seeing. Paul Farley’s and Deryn Rees-Jones’ latest poetry collections (The Dark Film and Burying the Wren respectively) are concerned with how we see things. From the purely visual exploration of viewing the world through Quality Street wrappers to examining a series of paintings in detail and spinning out a huge, relentless, poem about dogs which almost certainly wasn’t actually about dogs.

I’m struggling here.

For me, the joy of live poetry is just giving in to it. You sit and you listen and you don’t expect to remember more than a few ideas; half a sentence or two at most. Poetry isn’t music but it has a music and that is what a live reading gives you. 

The problem of that is trying to write a review, a day later, having worked a 14-hour shift in between. I remember Quality Street wrappers, and a tub of black treacle, and lots and lots of dogs, but that is all I remember from most nights out. How am I supposed to separate this one from the rest? 

Well, maybe I can’t. But I should probably try.

Paul Farley’s work is, to me at least, stupid prose writer that I am, the more readily accessible. It is capable of surprise but is not as opaque as Deryn Rees-Jones’ can be. I don’t mean that as a criticism of either of them, but offer it more as a clumsy way of differentiating between them. Can I say Farley is more concerned with form and Rees-Jones with sound? Does that even make sense? 

I’m really, really struggling here.

(Clare. Never let me review poetry again.)

The event was co-hosted by the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester, whose staff bring great writers to Manchester throughout the year. (Those same staff, if they are reading this, are probably wondering what I have been doing for the last 12 months while I was on their MA course. Not learning how to review poetry events. That is what. Sorry, guys.) If you take one thing from this review, please let it be a determination to go to some of the Centre’s events. They are all open to the public and they are all great. Some of them are even free. Use your city, people. Its resources are there for you too.

So, in conclusion, Paul Farley and Deryn Rees-Jones were great. Their words were great. You should have been there. And so should someone who was capable of reviewing the event.

Or maybe there was.

You see, I’m being a little dishonest with you. I could spend time discussing how Farley cleverly uses humour as a way of exploring emotion and memory. I could throw out comparisons with Kathryn Simmonds, and Helen Farish, and Paul Durcan. I could discuss how Deryn-Rees used repetition in a sequence of poems in order to make the reader uncomfortable and unsettled, and how the sequence’s most unsettling phases were also, interestingly, its most musical. I could have done all that and more but I didn’t want to because that isn’t really the point. It is the overly analytical, overly academic review that scares us away from poetry readings. But if a chuffer like me can enjoy them, then maybe you will too. I like The X Factor, I like Bruce Willis films (not Die Hard 4.0 though, obviously), and I like big scary poetry readings too. It is like I said at the beginning. You just let it happen to you. You relax and enjoy it.

It might make for a terrible review, but it will make a great evening.

I’ll see you at the next one. Yes?

Benjamin Judge is a writer and award-winning blogger. Who The Fudge Is Benjamin Judge? was joint winner in the Manchester Blog Awards 2011 in the Best Writing On A Blog category.

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