April 29, 2011

The Bury Poems


In 2008, when Robert Grenier was in Bury for his reading at the "Irony of Flatness" exhibition, an interview had been set up with him conducively located in a local cafe-bar. Unfortunately the interviewer was taken ill, which we didnt hear about for a few hours and with Bob not carrying a mobile phone it took a while to let him know. In those hours of waiting, he wrote 6 poems responding to the local rural landscape, north of Bury, where he had requested to be billeted because he can't sleep if there is any urban noise. They were called the "Ramsbottom Poems" from the village where he was staying.  This got me to thinking about the poetic responses that could be accumulated from artists' involvement in working Bury - and thus was born the idea of the Bury Poems.

Initially, I commissioned Phil Davenport, Carol Watts and Tony Lopez to create new Bury Poems - which all 3 performed at the 2009 Text Festival. Also during that festival, while Ron Silliman was here, he spent time on his wanderings between events working on a new poem called "Northern Soul" to be part of his Universe project. Initally I suggested that we publish it in time to launch at this festival, but Ron felt it may not be appropriate or ready within his plans. But I remembered a comment that Ron had made to me backstage at his festival reading along the lines that he could see in the performances of the artists on stage before him direct resonances to his own work. This made me consider: what has no-one asked Ron to do? A piece of public art. So we commissioned him to make a public text, a neon work which will be shown in the Art Gallery and then located permanently as an artwork in the Bury Tram Station. The making of this work in itself then became an additional sequence in the Bury Poems. With the final addition of works written by Geof Huth also in response to the Text and new works written by Holly Pester, one of the performers at this years event, the collection was almost done. Done in my mind anyway. Having editorialised it to this stage, I invited Phil Davenport to co-edit and continue the project to publication. All that was missing was my commissioner's contextualising essay, but Phil felt that my own poetry was also a response to the context that I had created and so pressed me to select new works from "The Tragedy of Althusserianism" which I have been writing for ifpthenq but had to delay because of the festival workload.

The book arrived from the printers on Thursday, a very handsome production just in time for the opening on Saturday. My thanks to all the poets involved and to Phil for bringing it to fruition.


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