Last night I drove into Rome to go to the Keats Shelley Museum in Piazza de Spagna (Spanish Steps) to listen to a fellow Cinnamon Press author, Will Kemp, read from his new book, out in October 2016: ‘The Painters Who Studied Clouds’.
I was not sure what to expect. My love of Keats aside, I tend to view poetry as the pretentious intellectual’s realm, imagining reams of stuffy, patronizing academics with nicotine-stained teeth pontificating into straggly beards while adoring students gaze on in adoration. Either that or I picture an elderly, bow-tied, cordoroy-clad gent with wandering hands and a love of plus fours and spotted dick (a throwback from his school days at Harrow or Rugby).
Will Kemp dispelled these stereotypes, appealing to his audience to embrace poetry (once again,) as part of popular culture. ‘If it is not accessible, I don’t want to write it.’ he said. ‘Poetry should not be hard work, either to write, nor to listen to.’ By this, of course, he is not demeaning the craft, nor the effort he makes to write his poems – by his own admission – with a full time job, he jots down notes but only manages to submerge himself on holiday, thus taking ten years to write a collection. No, what he meant is that poetry should entertain, educate and inspire without alienating the audience, and for inspiration, he drew on popular culture itself – sport, Greek mythology, Elvis Presley. His muses are Bill Collins and Carol Ann Duffy.
Before his arrival, I exchanged emails with him, offering to help garner support for his event with online reminders, posters, and gather the Rome Anglo-Expat community together as a fellow author at Cinnamon Press. He kindly read my book, The Disobedient Wife, and to our mutual relief, enjoyed it, writing ;
“I find it difficult to lie or be nice when it comes to writing: so much of it is so plain dull or boring, and yet as writers we owe each other the truth. As with Aufidius watching Coriolanus (“O mother, mother? What have you done?” Viii) “I was mov’d withal” by your book which sustained my interest throughout.
“I loved the way you handled perspective: we start off with a type of limited omniscience, ie Nargis’s view plus Harriet’s journal, but then get selective views from others (most noticeably Poulod’s view of “That black-eyed bitch and her little bastards”)… this seemed to me a bold move and masterfully handled, since such secondary perspectives cannot be introduced too early (lest they might/would throw the reader) or too late (lest the plot is weakened by the extra dimension they bring to bear on the final outcome)…”
“It is impossible not to like the central character with her world weary view and plain realism, and to feel for her… (sic). I loved the way you juxtaposed her (polite) words with her (contrary/ real) thoughts eg. to Poulod’s mother re: the latter’s business idea: “Alright, I will think about it”. I would rather have a fat, red cockroach as a business partner than this idiot.”
So… back to the reading. I certainly I did not expect this dapper, cheery man with a flowery shirt and a faint Yorkshire accent to begin with a “Man’s Poem” about James Bond. I did not expect the wry humour in the prose, the phases spun together with deceptive simplicity, as though finished in a day. His poems reminded me of abstract paintings, another misunderstood art form that is extremely hard to do well and nearly impossible to teach. It takes years of dedicated practice, or as he said, an electric energy of spontaneous creation that rarely works so well as dedicated graft.
As his final reading came to a close, we all left the comfortable, chestnut and rosewood library used by the Western World’s most famous Romantics, to go to a bar for drinks and talk to midnight.
From now on, poetry will be my second best friend, the first being, of course, the wonderful novel.
Will’s anthology will be available in October to buy. To pre-order ‘The Painters Who Studied Clouds’, click here