I’m in Upper St Giles Street, Norwich having a cup of tea in what used to be a butcher’s shop but is now part deli, part posh caff (lads with laptops, etc). I’m a bit shaky, I’ve just got my car back from the menders. I was involved in a spectacular collision in September and, though I’ve been driving a loan car, this is the first day back in the vehicle in which it happened. So, of course, I’ve been driving along recalling the event and, as I did day after day in September, trying to work out, without success, how I could have avoided it. I was turning right, with all precautions in place, when a god in a machine arrived very suddenly and that was nearly it.
I’ve twice lived in Upper St Giles Street. When my marriage ended I lived in a cupboard off a friend’s office, upstairs over a shop: and then I lived at the same address in the top floor front room (lovely) after a subsequent bust-up. Anyway here I am sitting in an antiqueish elm Windsor chair at a ditto pine table in what used to be John the butcher’s shop. There was also a fishmonger in the street, with some of the saddest fish I ever ate. John gave up butchering – was last seen running a newsagent on the outer ring road – after a break-in when all his Christmas orders were stolen. As he was butcher to the gentry – who came into the street to get their harness and other horsey bits and bobs fixed at the saddler’s shop – the Christmas stock was several hundreds of quids worth of prime meat.
Things happen: lives change.
Anyway I was living in the street when The Rialto started – we had some meetings in the upper room. I was striving back into real life, on the Thatcher Government’s Enterprise Scheme for getting ne’er do wells off the dole. I was ‘The Norfolk Finder’, running around in a borrowed van buying and selling Bric ‘n Brac as they sometimes call it round here. On Monday afternoons I’d dress up as a trainer and go up the road to the local re-hab and run a three hour Gestalt group, something I’d started doing, with the courage of the crazy, in the second year of my psychotherapy training. I think I was quite good and I think I did some good, though it’s startlingly heart-breaking work.
So, 25 years and a bit on, another autumn issue has gone out. Nathan has stepped up and said in an elegant essay why he thinks his selected poets deserve attention. I was thinking about this and hoping that you, dear readers, are not fearful that The Rialto is in danger of becoming a coterie type magazine. It was precisely in reaction to such things, e.g., Ian Hamilton’s the review, that we started the magazine. No. On the other hand, just supposing what Nathan is on about turns out to be as important as Al Alvarez’s The New Poetry – I for one wouldn’t want to miss out on that. We’re hoping to provoke some debate on the feature, so please if you have an opinion write it down and send it: mark the envelope Letters Page.
I’m glad to have all the poems in the second part of the magazine – particularly struck by Hannah Lowe’s work, very pleased to have a couple from Carole Coates’ rather special series on Kor – hopefully to be in book form soon Carole? There’s passionate and lovely stuff from Daisy Behagg and Jennifer Martin, a stunning Robert Wells and so on: in fact they are all good, but I would say that wouldn’t I.
The Rialto went to London on October 4th and did a really hearty reading at The Troubadour. Special and particular thanks once again to Anne-Marie Fyffe who does such a grand job keeping that venue so very much alive. Despite a disruptive tube strike and difficult journeys a large audience assembled to hear brave young poets Sam Riviere, Amy De’Ath, and Nathan Hamilton, strong and steady and magical Christina Dunhill, Joanna Clark, and Joanne Limburg, and the always wonderful Fleur Adcock. Your editor also read. We have video which should be up on the website soon, if not yesterday.
And The Rialto went to Aldeburgh, first weekend in November (make a note in your 2011 diary), once again as sponsors of the Sunday morning Masterclass. I didn’t like to poach the Poetry Trust’s space so I just took pictures of the opening scene of the event and of the closing applause. A large and friendly audience heard work presented by Holly Hopkins, Rebecca Perry and Tom Warner. Though they all said afterwards how nervous they’d been, they didn’t appear it at the time and gave highly professional readings of three very interesting poems. Bill Manhire was brilliant as guest star poetry master, managing to engage very fully with the nuts and bolts of the writing, and at the same time to give a wider sense of how to read poetry. One of the best for years I’d say. We hope that the poets will write about the experience and that we can publish their, possibly wiser after the event, poems in the next issue of the magazine.
By the way I was wrong about the halibut. I asked the North Norfolk Fish Co.’s John, the leading purveyor of fish in the county (why even Delia has been seen in his shop – I wanted to say Julia, but probably only so I could get something in about Herrick’s poem, ‘Fain would I kiss my Julia’s leg/ which is as white and hairless as an egg’), and he, John, said no you don’t get farmed halibut small enough for two to dine off. Though he did add that there’s something called a chicken halibut which can be found in the North Sea, but it’s extremely rare – so best left alone. Anyway Rebecca tells me she is changing the poem’s title.
Ann and I went for coffee afterwards, to escape the wicked cold northerly wind, with Emily and Alicia. Those two go to all the events and they reported this year’s festival as being really rather good. Then they went off to another reading and we stayed to have lunch. I noticed those monarchs of the East Anglian Poetry World M***** and H**** also dining, and, what’s more, indulging in the gourmet puddings.