Wednesday, 19 May 2021

The poetry world in London vs the poetry world in England

I've long been troubled by the huge gulf between the poetry world in London and the poetry world in the rest of England, and Toby Litt's review in the Guardian of Sam Rivere's novel, titled Dead Souls (see here), has brought my thoughts into focus.

On the one hand, not having read the novel itself, I can't judge its contents, but I can suggest that the most troubling aspect of this review is its false equivalence between the "the small world of English poetry" and the London scene. In other words, there's a huge world of English poetry beyond the capital's elite. It's thriving and vibrant, anything but "monstrous".

On the other hand, having given numerous readings in London and in other locations, I've observed certain important differences in the audiences, dynamics and interval chit-chat, etc. Of course, these interpretations are subjective and partial, as I'm fully aware that exceptions do exist. However, here goes...

1) Far fewer books are sold by poets at readings in London than elsewhere. Of course, there are more events in the capital and money can only reach so far, but this is still indicative of a certain attitude.

2) There are undoubtedly groups of fawning acolytes around certain poets and editors at London events that are a lot less common in other towns and cities.

3) In London audiences, there's invariably a proportion of people who seem uninterested in the readings themselves, only coming alive at the interval and during post-reading drinks, when they grab the opportunity to network.

1 comment:

  1. Well I dunno - speaking as a Londoner - mostly my experience of those events a lively curiosity, a sense of camaraderie and community (and of course, yes, some gossip and a few barbs). And this has been the case since I first started going to events a couple of decades ago not really knowing anyone. I have for the most part felt warmed and welcome. Like most insider/outsider perspectives, it is partly about what you bring with you.