Monday, 14 July 2008


The webmagazine Intercapillary Space has the work of Sean Rafferty as their latest topic, a collection of thoughtful pieces starting with a personal recollection from his publisher Nick Johnson. I knew Rafferty’s work had, late in his life, been supported by Ted Hughes, but I didn’t know he looked after the laureate’s chickens. Nick has a way with elderly poets of course. He organised a reading tour for Carl Rakosi when the latter was in his nineties – Nick’s press Etruscan had just brought out ‘The Old Poet’s Tale’. The reading Rakosi gave at the Voicebox on the South Bank was extraordinary. He read the title poem, where the poet recounts how his great friend Oppen, suffering from Alzheimers, is taken from his home and goes into an institution. The sequence has a stoic calmness and gravity and hearing it read by someone himself so old – Rakosi refers to himself in the poem as ‘shade’, and ‘the reliable shade’- was a powerful experience. And then there was David Gascoyne reading at Diorama, another of Nick’s events. Would it have been the last reading Gascoyne gave? I remember he described at one point how he had turned up at the regular café in Paris to be told by Breton that he, Gascoyne, had from this point henceforth been expelled from the Movement. ‘I see you have become both a Stalinist and a Catholic’ Breton announced. Quite what provoked this I’m not sure – must have been something he wrote. O there was Sorley Maclean reading at Nick’s festival in Stoke-on-Trent . . .


On Sunday August 17th I’m reading at Torriano with Sue MacIntyre (7.30pm at Torriano Meeting House, 99 Torriano Avenue in Kentish Town). Sue MacIntyre’s ‘Picnic With Sea-Fog and Elephants’ was the final publication I brought out with my press, The Many Press. That was back in 2003. Sue is someone who, having written earlier in her life, put it aside and took it up again many years later. Her work is conversational in tone, scrupulous, and tends to display a distinctive and very attractive wariness and sense of surprise. She deserves a full-length collection.

There’s a new venue here in Hackney, in Dalston, Café Oto (see their website at with a programme of readings currently being prepared. It looks as if it may develop into a combination of word and music – the space already hosts music events. Dalston is undergoing some quite massive and inevitably controversial development. Is this the ‘Shoreditch effect’ moving north? It wasn’t like that when we moved here back in the early 1970s. Back then Dalston still had Kossoff’s Bakers – this is the painter’s David Kossoff’s family isn’t it? He did paintings of Dalston. There were still other Jewish Bakers around – but most of the Jewish population, other than the Hassidim who are still here in Stamford Hill of course, had moved on and the Turkish / Kurdish population was starting to increase. And then gentrification, albeit patchily.

O and Peter Hughes' Oystercatcher Press has a website now at