25 May 2011

Ambitious ideas

Yesterday, I popped by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, aka my current second home (just after my real home and slightly before The Castle), for an evening of poetry and prose hosted by Ambit Magazine. This literary quarterly has been going since 1959 and lists among its contributors a certain Mr William Seward Burroughs, which I'd say is a good thing.

Jim Burns introduced proceedings, and first up was Edmund Prestwich with various poems inspired by Africa, in particular South Africa where he was brought up. You can read some of them on his website, including Egrets and Moshoeshoe And The Cannibals.

Next at the lecturn was Nicholas Royle, who explained he's been submitting to Ambit since he started writing in the 80s. He'd half-written, especially for the reading, a short story called The Head; he swore to me and Adrian that he'll finish it at some point, so we'll have to hold him to that. He then read The Lancashire Fusilier, his Station Stories contribution. That's my third listen, and it's still incredibly moving.

After a break, Jim was back, with some of his very funny poems. Dirty Old Blues was great, and I was pleased to be transported to Shakespeare & Co in Paris through La Vie de Boheme.

David Gaffney followed, telling us that Ambit was the first place his short Sawn-off Tales stuff was published. He'd already let slip to me that he wasn't going to read any proper stories, instead giving us 2,000 words or so made up of as yet unused material from his ideas folder. "Call it Ideas That Never Happened, if you like", he said. I had been characteristically sceptical; the result, in fact, was hilarious.

The final slot was Joan Poulson, another poet. I enjoyed No Teetering, about shoes and her imaginary dog named after Frida Kahlo, and containing the lovely line "out to the licorice-dark garden".

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