At last a moment to reflect on the Telltale three week mini-tour, which ended on October 1st at the Poetry Cafe with Robin Houghton and I reading with the excellent Rishi Dastidar and Anja Konig. I enjoyed all three readings immensely, not least being able to sit back and savour the work of poets like Robin, Rishi and Anja.
Rishi’s work is fascinating. I think it extremely accomplished with a lovely fluency and flow, and included some deft wrong footing and surprising turns which made it a treat to listen to. Definitely one to watch. I also loved Anja’s work, as she read from her new pamphlet Advice for an Only Child. There was a beguilingly light touch about her work. I’d love to hear her read again see some of her work here.
It has been about twenty years since I have read this regularly. And over the course of the last week the reason why I stopped doing readings and engaging with the ‘poetry world’ seems obvious. It is to do with the death of a close friend Tim Gallagher.
Tim and I used to collaborate lots, which culminated in us staging plays together at the Water Rats Theatre in London. He was like an infuriatingly talented older brother and as his death loomed (at the age of 37) I spent a year or so trying to help him as best I could, in getting a book of his produced, helping him to arrange performances from which he would literally climb out of his hospital bed to perform and so on. Somehow my great sadness at his death and that of his wife Rosa, who survived him by six months and whose hand I was holding when she died, weirdly blocked me from performing and promoting my own work.
Now it seems obvious that on some level I felt guilty to have survived when Tim and Rosa had not. The result was a big roadblock of guilt, that meant that although I still wrote poetry, performing it and promoting it felt weirdly disloyal. I think I am a fairly self-aware person but it has taken me years to unpick this. And it now seems no coincidence that three of the poems in The Nightwork (Cicada, Postcard from Ithaca, and After death, at dawn) are about Tim.
For Robin and I the launch of Telltale is naturally an exciting thing to do. But personally it was a huge catharsis. Proof, if any were needed, that just getting on with what is important to you can be unexpectedly beneficial.
Below Robin Houghton, Anja Konig, Rishi Dastidar and myself in the poetry cafe.