It’s 10 pm and I am just back from an evening at The Brewery Arts Centre where I have been listening to Andrew Motion read excerpts from Essex Clay, published this year by Faber & Faber.
I walked into town and arrived half an hour early so that I could have a pint at the end of quite a hot day. Sitting outside in the beer garden, I read through a few poems from a selection of his works (bought for my birthday by my daughter) and indulged myself with a very cold Guinness. Then a few poetry friends arrived (who hadn’t seen me since the demise of the beard) and we had a pleasant chat about how incredibly young and handsome I now look …
In the theatre, I counted fifty people, mainly my age or above, and finished my Guinness to the not unpleasant strains of jazz piano over the PA system. Then the auditorium hushed as a disembodied voice announced Motion’s imminent arrival on the stage.
He walked on and put everyone at ease with his own relaxed and understated presence, telling an anecdote/joke about a meeting between Philip Larkin and Richard Murphy, before explaining the reasons behind the new work and the way in which he had organised its layout on the page. I don’t intend to carry out (nor could I do justice to) a dissection or analysis of the poem, which addresses a life-changing incident when he was 17 years old and an unexpected reverberation forty years later in a meeting at St. Pancras station. Suffice to say, the work is bloody marvellous and I was rapt all the way through (buy this book!).
An hour passed in seconds and we were at the end. He invited questions from the audience, and after a short embarrassed silence, someone broke the ice. Motion talked about his time as Poet Laureate (graciously) and I wondered (aloud) if I could ask a question about Larkin’s attitude/feelings towards the role he’d refused (or let it be known he didn’t want). I also managed to get confirmation from Sir Andrew (which I’d always assumed to be correct) that the railway line from Hull through Goole to Doncaster was in fact the one referred to in The Whitsun Weddings …
… it was; I went home a very happy poet.
Post Script: Just found this advice from A.M.
Four years out of date, but still relevant 🙂