Thursday, 17 April 2008

More Medieval Madness

So my friend Kate and I went to Bennett & Kerr today and once we got in the door we began to resemble Mr Nicholson(above). There are just so many goodies in this place that I cannot begin to tell you about. When the printed catalogue arrived it had me foaming at the mouth. Very few of the books I wanted were actually there, which was disappointing but probably a jolly good thing. Neither of us knew exactly the road, but Kate's excellent friend, Mr Sat Nav, knew the way and gently guided us all the way. We were warmly welcomed by Marion, who made us tea and let us wander around like crazy feral children. Every now and then there'd be a gasp and the sound of another book being thrown greedily onto the 'maybe' pile. This was duly transformed into the 'must have' pile. I was delighted with my haul. Curry's Chaucer and the Mediaeval Sciences; Boitani's Chaucer and the Imaginary World of Fame; Coopland's edition of Philippe de Mézières' Epistre au Roi Richart; E.G. Stanley's Continuations and Beginnings. Overall, a very good morning's work. Kate picked up some marvellous things, valuable and interesting stuff. But I shan't say more about hers. It might be mistaken for envy.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Stephen Fry and the Gutenberg Press

Watch the first episode of Stephen Fry and the Gutenberg Press aired on BBC 4 on Monday 14 April and now available on the new iPlayer service. It's a lot of fun.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The one wot didn't get away

At last. Mine. Mwha mwha. Gorni's edition of the Vita nova. The 'Wants' section of Abebooks really does work. The email telling me a copy was available came first thing in the morning and I couldn't get my credit card out fast enough. This is really very scarce and I am delighted to have it. The book is what the Italians delightfully call intonso, meaning the pages are uncut. The bookseller's description might have been interpreted as saying that this was a fault with the publishers, on a par with the small tear on the cover. But I didn't care. I was so afraid that it would get here I said nothing until it arrived and it now sits on my desk. I also ordered a copy of Luciano Rossi's edition of the by Guinizzelli, Nuova raccolta di classici italiani annotati, 17 (Einaudi, 2002 [ISBN: 8806152696]). Very happy to have this too. My next big(ish) purchase will be Rosanna Bettarini's splendid two-volume edition of Petrarch's Canzoniere, Nuova raccolta di classici italian annotati, 21 (Einaudi, 2005).

Now running around making final arrangements for our Light conference tomorrow and Saturday. Looking forward to it, or I would if I could sit for a minute.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Poetry Now 2008

Over the past few days I've been going out to Dun Laoghaire to the Poetry Now 2008 Festival. It has been very worthwhile. And old and good friend was curator this year so I was going as both a moral supporter but also a bog standard member of the public, interested in the readings. On Thursday, Belinda McKeon gave a wonderful introductory lecture, 'Poem Springing', and discussed the idea of readings, citing Larkin's suspicions of readings. It was about poetry and diversity, the work of the ear and the work of the eye. [On the Poetry Ireland website, on the calendar of events, they've listed Belinda as reading her poem 'Springing', which I thought was a rather poetic misreading for her introduction 'Poem Springing'].

I got to several readings. Bernard O'Donoghue, Antonella Anedda, and Jamie McKendrick. It was such a pleasure. O'Donoghue is one of my favourite poets writing at the moment. He writes so beautifully about leaving home, about Ireland, about an Ireland of the 1950s that I recognize in veins of my own childhood, and in my own returns home. He helps me make sense of that and teaches me so much about the things I know so well they are a mystery. Anedda's work I did not know but found myself delighted to know it, and she was well served in the beautiful translations of the wonderful Jamie McKendrick. McKendrick occupies a space of happy Italian memories for me and to hear him read again made me think a lot about that time.

Later that evening, CD Wright and Seamus Heaney read. Wright's work, again (I say red-faced), I did not know and found it difficult and interesting and I enjoyed the hard work of it. Heaney was what he always is in readings: memorable, beautiful, modest, extraordinary. He read some new stuff, which was marvellous to hear.

On Saturday, I got to the final reading of the evening, Henri Cole, Mimi Khalvati, and George Szirtes. Again, this was an introduction to the work of Cole and Khalvati, but I shall certainly be reading more. And Szirtes read with that Central European urbanity that his poetry so beautifully expresses, the sadness of an exile.

Undoubtedly one of the highlights for me was meeting Alice Lyons, the poet and visual artist who was responsible for the fantastic Staircase Project in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. We'd been introduced as neighbours, and a moment's puzzlement led to a spark of mutual recognition where I was identified as "Miglior Acque"! That's a first. It was a beautiful evening and I am glad of it.

Thank you Belinda for putting together a fantastic festival, and thanks to the poetry, for being so good.


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