Art and the Future

Some Sundays are magical. I’ve just had two in a row. Last night we went, as has become the tradition, to hear the ten shortlisted poets for the TS Eliot Prize. Every single poet deserved the prize. I haven’t looked to see who has been awarded it, but my 50p would be on Sharon Olds.

Another prize in the arts took me to Margate the Sunday before last with Celia: The Turner Prize. I realised the day the winner of the prize was to be announced that I know one of those shortlisted, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, with whom I did some work a decade ago. What I did not know was that the four short-listed artists, when they met, had realised their art all came from the same place, and asked the judges to allow them to share the prize. The judges agreed.

Human rights, racism, the rich legacy of immigration, sexual repression, ecological crisis, are themes common in the work of both groups of short listed artists. To say the last night’s readings and last week’s trip to Margate to Turner Contemporary were inspiring is an understatement. Like many, I am saddened and depressed by what is happening in my country and elsewhere. Narrow minds, racists, white supremacists, revisionist historians, warmongers, nationalists are in the ascent. I have been low in spirits, appalled by events and attitudes, extremely worried about the future. Evidence that there are many people out there still working for good, for human rights, for justice, for truth, the NHS, for victims of indifference, lifted my spirits, despite the sober art. Continue reading

Poetry, Pain Thresholds, and Imaginary Bridges

Top of January’s High Spots is tonight’e event at the Royal Festival Hall when the shortlisted poets for the TS Eliot Prize will each read from their work for eight minutes. It was Celia who introduced me to this pleasure several years ago when she had a spare ticket. I think it may have been the first time I saw Simon Armitage perform live. Bliss.
Tonight there are about eight of us going and sitting together, meeting two more whose seats are waaaay behind ours, and almost certainly seeing Kate and Jane who like us are serial recidivists. I have only just realised that Nick Laird is one of the shortlisted poets. Delight. I saw him read at the Heaney Homeplace in February 2017, that magical weekend when Cousin’s friend Ann and I enjoyed three successive nights of poetry. Laird grew up around Cookstown, so not far from Bellaghy. Ann has since died from cancer which makes that weekend infinitely precious. There was a good local crowd, and I enjoyed a chat with him afterwards, learning that for a time he had lived near where my home is in South London. He was savage about Boris Johnson and the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle, so no wonder I warmed to him. I’ll have a quick gargle so I can whoop at the end of his set. Continue reading