Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

The above is the cracking end line to 'The Snow Man' by Wallace Stevens, which I read for the first time last week. It jumped off the page of the book and punched me between the eyes, or perhaps not punched so much as boinged in a tantalisingly obtuse but deliciously lyrical fashion between my eyes, ears and brain.

And I thought the final line rather apt in regard to yesterday's reading in Saltaire. So in an attempt to behold the nothing that wasn't there and the nothing that was, I'll recapture the afternoon:

Beginning with a reduced duo - from trio - of poets. The absence of the third reader, amounting to approximately twenty minutes less, would, we decided hang in the air, giving more breath to what was read.
And so drove for two hours through siling rain and wind across the Dales to Shipley from Lancaster.
There are two Saltaire Bookshops: one a big bright shiny space in the Salts Mill that appears as much bookshop as parquet skate rink. (A new Olympic sport?); the other a smaller carpeted affair, in the mould of traditional second hand bookshop, on a major roundabout. Guess which one we were due to read in.
Not easy, since neither had posters or leaflets declaring the 2 o'clock reading.
One also had no customers.
Aha! Yes. Absence. Nothing.
The (embarassed) bookseller bought a book off each of us so covering petrol costs: a nil nil balance sheet.

A friend suggested it would have been worse if we'd read to a huge audience who hated us. But that would have resulted in a negative rather than nothing so not relevant to this story.

2 comments:

Jane Eagland said...

What a shame! And a waste of time and effort....

Certainly the bookseller should have been embarrassed - and at least bought a couple of books from each of you to put on the shelf.

Who'd be a writer!

Claire Massey said...

That sounds like a horrible experience, how frustrating!

Thank you for sharing that Wallace Stevens poem, it's stunning.