Early, I was shortly joined by John Atherton I offered a glass of wine to. Catherine and Jacqui took seats at the table I sat by and John, who’d been sitting apart, shifted to its social centre. Room was made for John Elliott.
I read out John’s poem from prison. Play had been made of the no of Johns in the group from day one and here was yet another. John E said his sentence should be lengthened or he hanged for crimes against English. Catherine and Jacqui said it was an improvement on his last and the former was interested in the truth to him of its depiction of depression, its title.
Catherine followed with a comic poem on the run club she’s a member of in her bid to do a half-marathon. The dodgy knee as a result of all this running did not get so much as a mention in the poem. John A also runs, fourteen miles home from work twice a week, and has done some kind of super marathon of fifty miles in America. John E who barely walks remarked my impressive sprinting for a bus as example of all the short burst exercise of twenty seconds in a minute needed, thrice a week.
John A had taken the topic on the sexual power of women over men seriously and had written a poem, Amy (2), on a couple’s making use of each other, Amy having a boyfriend and who knows what the man had: heavy legs wrapped around a duvet as I recall. Ah yes, I remember it well. I liked it but wasn’t sure of its poetic credentials, taking it home to test for tone. It may fall half way between poetry and prose and has superficial blemishes like a repeated ‘floor’. There are sonic echoes, not quite assonance or internal rhymes and I’m not sure he shouldn’t have chosen ‘those’ over ‘these’ to rhyme with ‘bows’. In one line there were two ‘thens’.
John E took his book, Dying to Read, from the local writers shelf of the bookshop we sat in, Langton’s, and had Jacqui read the coda. I rather liked it, especially the first part, the dialogue between retiring policeman and his wife, or partner, about where to retire to, over which there was divergence without anything deep surfacing. The reading was a bit long. The book has leapt to hundred thousandth in Amazon.
I asked John about his meeting with Quentin. Chomu isn’t doing too well. “Oh,” I sighed, for effect, doomed to not being published. I’d referred to my sorting out things between my publisher and her footnotes designer, fully confident these women would muck things up again and here was another of my publishers in straits. “What is it with these women?” I asked Jacqui. It’s an unconscious conspiracy. John thinks it would sink him his second book’s not being published. How greedy. He’d said he wanted another published before he died, not another two.
Jacqui read her new piece and it was interesting: an unhappy woman, of detached or deadened feeling, reflecting on how she might’ve got to the middle aged pass she was in, touching time and again on the death of her son and her husband’s fulfilment of his limited ambitions which she was tied to, having done things without conscious thought or decision – how the most important things are decided in fact. It ended all too soon for me.
Kevin as usual was late, missing Catherine’s poem. The auctorial voice, John E agreed with me, was the primary quality of his writng, like it or lump it, characterisation or authenticity of dialogue being of secondary consideration and carried along by it, or not. I incline to think it is, John that it’s not.
I told John A I wasn’t giving any preliminary explanation to him of my reading from ‘the book’ where Mum gives her explanation of female superiority and Johnny realises he hadn’t given his, that they are the thread in the labyrinth for the writer of ‘the book’ they’re in to follow. John E wasn’t negative for once, latching onto the minotaur myth as an extension, through the implied Ariadne of Mum, of a woman’s power, noting that since Mum wasn’t Johnny’s mother she didn’t have it over him. We’re all mothers’ sons, however; the power is generally applicable and Johnny is going to have to base his superiority on other than being a man, the which, I assured Catherine, I had done. John did get in one negativity by emphasising ‘adults’ about the duologue, meaning that Johnny’s expression isn’t that of a child. John’s forgetting Johnny’s psychological acumen surpasses that of any adult and that he’s informed by his man, his spirit, without whom this telepathic conversation could not have been effected.