Wednesday, November 17

My Coral is Afloat

My new pamphlet, Coral, was launched last night. Does coral float? If it does I could say something corny like “My Coral is Afloat”. Oh, I just did. Please don’t tell me coral sinks.

I read at The Flying Goose Café, in Beeston. The readings there are organised by John Lucas, the poet and critic who also runs Shoestring Press
. Reading with me (the events are always double-headers) was André Mangeot, whose Shoestring collection “Natural Causes” is really good. You might like to check it out. Perhaps I should get a poem or two off him to post here. I’ll make a mental note to do that.

It was a wholeheartedly nice evening. I think Andre and I complemented one another pretty well. I’m sure I’m not the only poet who has found him or herself at an event, reading alongside someone with whom they feel no affinity whatsoever. And, maybe, even felt uncomfortable and like a round fish in square water. But last night was good, and several people made a point of saying afterwards that we went well together.

I think this was the first time I’ve ever done a reading where every poem I read had never been read to an audience before. (Well, I suppose my first ever public reading fitted that description, but other than that…..) “Coral” is a discrete set of poems -- composed as a unit, if you like. Anyway, I read some of those, and a few other new(ish) things. Some of the latter had seen an audience in print before, but it’s always interesting to get them out loud for the first time. I don’t usually get nervous about readings, and I wasn’t exactly nervous last night but – okay, I was nervous just a little bit. I think it was the fact it was all new poems did it. Oh, and the fact I knew half the audience, which should make you feel comfortable but with me does the exact opposite. But everything went well and everybody seemed to have a good time.

A bunch of us went for a curry afterwards. Then I gave Belinda a lift home. She spent half the journey searching for her house keys, which was a little disconcerting. She kept saying she wished she’d given a spare key to someone just in case she ever lost hers. I wished she had, too. Then she said maybe she’d left them in Ian’s car. He’d given her a lift to the reading. I had visions of having to go to West Bridgford to find him to check out the theory. But Belinda is a performance poet, so I told myself it was all part of a show she was trying out on an unsuspecting audience. Then she found them, thank goodness. They were in a place where she never puts them. Isn’t that always the way?

Here’s a poem from “Coral”:


The last onion has been sent to market
I didn’t feel the need to go with it
My preference is to stay in
my pyjamas all day and lose myself
in a favourite book (Today it’s
Three Men in a Boat) and my records
Chloe, read what you will into my still being here
“Je peux ne pas être digne de confiance”
This has always been a puzzle
for me as much as for others
& I’m well capable of self-delusion
(I suspect my own motives)
Yes, that was me in Starbucks with Daphne
but it was accidental & coincidental
like reading the words “slow as coral”
and at the same time the girl
on the record you’re playing sings
“my heart of coral” and you think Gosh!
(but in Starbucks there was no Gosh!)

And this is I promise the last time I’ll mention that the pamphlet is available from Leafe Press, 1 Leafe Close, Chilwell, Nottingham NG9 6NR and costs £2.50 plus postage. E-mail Alan Baker --

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