Wednesday, 12 November 2008

IV: The Telling Moment

This is the photographic art at its most distinctive, the snapshot. The sports photographer, with his leaping hurdlers and fouling footballers, is better provided with such moments, for which however he may need the 300mm f2.8 lens. They are more subtle and occur more rarely in poetry readings, but they call for no more than a 50mm or 85mm f2.8 lens. I have never possessed a motor-drive, nor would I be inclined to use one, it seems like taking a machine gun on a deer-shoot. Not that I’ve ever shot anything except a target, and no regret.

Alas, I cannot say what Barry McSweeney was telling us. On the other hand, I can say that Peter Mortimer was telling Dominic Behan, ever so nicely, to shut up. Peter had been reading when Dominic suddenly announced from his corner: “It’s shit, Peter!”

The audience was frightfully embarrassed. English type cries, “I say, give the man a chance!”, “Disgusting!”, “Fair play, there!” alternated with the doggedly repeated Irish literary criticism,

“It’s shit, I tell ye!”, which was now being enunciated from a standing position. The audience was further embarrassed by the suspicion that while the form of the criticism was deplorable, there might be something in its content.

Barry McSweeney, Castle Chare, Durham. 09/11/1979

Peter Mortimer and Dominic Behan, Morden Tower,

The telling moments are usually those of activity, but the picture of Alexander Trocchi (now dead), author of “Cain’s Book” and acknowledged heroin user, seems to tell us something.

Alexander Trocchi (R) with Dave Westerley (L), Morden Tower,

Paul Buck reading, Colpitts,
Durham. 19/11/1976

Tony Jackson, Castle Chare, Durham. 15/02/1980

George McBeth, ‘Coelfrith’, Sunderland, 11/05/1982

Richard Kell, Morden Tower, 08/05/1981

Bill Griffiths had the bad luck to be paired with Geraldine Monk at a reading in the Castle Chare in 1980. From the moment she appeared, in scarlet dress and black stockings, he hadn’t a hope. (It was one of the few occasions when I should have welcomed a colour film. I tried to recruit her as a figure model when I sent her copies of the pictures, and had some hope of success, but she eluded me). He was luckier in 1985 at the Tower, along with Bob Cobbing, who performs in a curious and effective chant.

Geraldine Monk with Bill Griffiths (L) Ged Lawson (R) Castle Chare, Durham, 01/02/1980

Bob Cobbing, Tony Jackson, Bill Griffiths, Morden Tower. 01/03/1985

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