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 cafĂ© 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 . . .

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