I was talking on the phone about the amazing performers whom I was on stage with
tonight and how good everyone was backstage. Comrades all. We were at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square, West London. In the middle of my statement “so Julie Christie said…” my friend said “can you hear that clanging noise!”. There was a pause – I told him that I couldn’t hear a thing. “It’s the sound of names dropping all over the place” he said.
So let’s make some noise. Tonight I read on stage at an event called Cries From The
Heart for Human Rights Watch. It’s a very powerful event and the performers were George Alagiah, Eileen Atkins Christine Coulson, Sinead Cussack, Julie Christie, James
Fenton, Jeremy Irons, Fergal keane, Kananu Kirimi, Ben Okri, Sophie Okonedo,
Rageh Omar, Dan Stevens, Juliet Stevenson, Tom Stoppard, Nitin Sawhney, Aref
Duvesh, Julian Lloyd Webber and me.
I have got so may stories of this evening, chatting to Tom Stoppard while he smoked his
cigarettes in the back yard of the Theatre. He noticed that I’d changed a line in my poem. The lined concerned a cigarette packet. In the text it reads ten regal king size please. I changed it when I read on stage to Silk Cut. I’d changed it as I heard Sinead Cussack
refer to Silk Cut a little earlier and just new that in the context of my poem the term “Silk Cut was perfect and though the poem is published – it’s called Boiling Up – it still benefited from the change of cigarettes. Mr Stoppard agreed. I was surprised and honoured that he had listened and read so attentively, as I would be with anyone who does as such. He knows Jamie Byng my publisher at canongate and said that he wanted to buy my books. My books. I said that I would ask Jamie to send them but he refused telling me that the act of buying a book is a statement in itself.
Probably the coolest moment was standing outside with Julie Christie and noone else. Just her and I, discussing poetry, cigarettes and alcohol. She is beautiful, absolutely beautiful and tender and strong and all. Chatting to poet James Fenton was itself a great pleasure for me. But I think Christie topped the night for us all. By 9.30pm I left and a
car sped me away from west London to my home in the east.
The most beautiful piece on stage was read by Julie Christie and it is below. She read it with a lightness depth and clarity that I have only seen in the bay of loutros when swimming at night the sea sparkled with both the reflection of the stars and the phosphourescence. And if that sounds like pretentious bollox then read the poem she read which is written by Polish poet Wislawa Symborska. I cancelled a gig in Poland earlier this year but if I could ahve met the poet who wrote this I would definitely have gone.
Reality Demands That we also mention this: Life goes on. It continues at Cannae and Borodino, At Kosovo Polje and Guernica.
There’s a gas station On a little square in Jericho, And wet paint On park benches in Bila Hora . Letters fly back and forth Between Pearl Harbour and Hastings, A moving van passes Beneath the eye of the lion at Cheronea, And the blooming orchards near Verdun Cannot escape The approaching atmospheric front.
There is so much Everything That nothing is hidden quite nicely. Music pours From yachts moored at Actium And couples dance on their sunlit decks.
So much is always going on, That it must be going on all over. Where not a stone still stands You see the ice cream man Besieged by children. Where Horishima has been
Horishima is again, Producing many products For everyday use.
This terrifying world is not devoid of charms Of the mornings That make waking up worthwhile. The grass is green On Maciejowice’s fields, And it is studded with dew,
As is normal with grass.
Perhaps all fields are battlefields, All grounds are battlegrouds, Those we
remember And those that are forgotten: The birch,cedar, and fir forests, the white snow,
The yellow sands, grey gravel, the iridescent swamps The canyons of black defeat,
Where in times of crisis, You can cower under a bush.
What moral flows from this? Probably none. Only the blood flows, drying quickly,
And, as always, a few rivers, a few clouds.
On tragic mountain passes The wind rips hats from unwitting heads And we
can’t help Laughing at that.