Somehow, without quite meaning to, I have been leaving my room. Last night I went to a poetry reading by John Burnside and Linda Gregerson, both of whom, despite my misgivings about readings, spoke (and read) very well. Many of her poems had that longed-for (though not predictable) shift in tone or subject that, when it works, is like the shift from cold to warm when stood beneath a shower. Her most recent collection is Magnetic North.
I only know Burnside’s work through his considerable reputation, as both a novelist and poet. The poems he read (including a long narrative poem about hunting a deer that made me recall, in a pleasurable fashion, Faulkner’s story ‘The Bear’) were mostly from his forthcoming collection, The Hunt in the Forest. In all of them the language seemed vital, rooted in landscape and its traditions (not least those of how we represent and imagine it).
Were this not enough, I also attended the launch of the Edinburgh International Book Festival this morning, held amidst the grandiosity of the Signet Library.
Champagne was consumed. Some items were received. One of which was the new Granta (106), which continues to improve under the editorship of John Freeman (by which I mean that it features more interesting writers, as well as being willing to print work like Chris Ware’s (you will want to zoom in on this:
Issue 107 also promises to be good, with pieces by Kenzaburo Oe and (gasp) William T. Vollmann.
Now it is the afternoon; the fizz has consented to fade. It was very nice to go out. Shall try it again next year.