Of The Evening Entertainment and John Berger

It was with a weird mixture of excitement, relief and trepidation that earlier this evening (appropriately) I sent off what I hope is pretty much the final manuscript of my debut collection, The Evening Entertainment, which those fantastic folks at Eyewear Publishing will be letting loose on the world on 1st October. It’s been a long (30 years!) and arduous process, but it feels like the book is now within sight of the finishing post. I’ve agonised over how many poems it should have and how they should be ordered, and the count is now 64 poems in three sections of 20, 24 and 20 – a 24 poem sandwich, if you like.

The Eyewear autumn launch of my and other poets’ books is on 11th October at the London Review Books Shop, and I’m organising my own subsequent launch, on 1st November, the details of which I will post here soon.

***

Last week I went to see the lovely portmanteau film The Seasons in Quincy about John Berger. To my mind, he was a truly great writer and it is to my regret that I never saw him speak or read live. When Smokestack Books brought out Berger’s Collected Poems in 2014, my thought was ‘about bloody time somebody did’, though in retrospect detaching many of the poems from the prose in which they were originally interspersed somehow diluted their power. Every time I read Berger’s novels and unclassifiable books, like Keeping a Rendezvous or Bento’s Sketchbook, I think how he was so ahead of, yet so significantly prominent within, his time. Strangely, he never seems to get mentioned as an influence upon WG Sebald, another great European writer of our recent age, but in their diversity of interests, immense humanity and compassion, their use of photographs and their ability to tell vivid, haunting stories about anyone and anything, they are surely akin.

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