Tuesday, 24 February 2009

but Larkin will never go out of fashion...

Nicole Farhi A/W '09 at the Royal Opera House

Even though London Fashion Week isn't technically over, my involvement in it is as the copy for my piece on LFW is just about finished (not half as crap as I thought it would be). I wouldn't say I enjoyed the shows, but it was interesting to see how they operated. It's funny because I think I'd enjoy them a lot more were they less laden with all the weird fashionista self-righteousness: I want to scream at these people 'you work for fashion magazines! you don't even make clothes, you sell them by wearing them! why so smug?' Via the forces of PR, the fashion world has created an aura of 'exclusivity' and I'll tell you why that aura is so essential for the success of the industry. If you knew just how shallow the people were, how uneventful the shows are, how scary the models look in real life, but especially how crap the parties are, you'd never ever shell out the big bucks for a pair of Prada shoes. Sure, you might still admire the man-hours involved in making an avant-garde McQueen dress, but it wouldn't be surrounded in a halo of celebrity-coveting desire if the 'fashion world' lost its lustrous lustre (tautology, I know).

If nothing else, I'm glad I went if only to strengthen existing beliefs. Yeah - cool, well-constructed clothes are fun, but when people start using designer labels (and all that they imply) to prop up an ailing sense of self, then the fashion, advertising, and PR people are doing their jobs too well.

On to more interesting things... Far more desirable, and strangely enough almost more difficult to obtain, were tickets to the great Josephine Hart's poetry evening at the British Library. A few of these evenings have been broadcast on Radio 4 and I heard a repeat broadcast one sunny afternoon last May (of the dramatic monologues of Robert Browning) and have been trying to get tickets ever since. Hart is an Irish novelist, married to the other Saatchi (Maurice), and has brilliant connections in the acting world. The premise of her evenings is based on a simple idea: poetry is meant to be heard with the ear, not seen with the eye. She picks a different poet for each monthly reading and then selects a number of actors for their affinity to the selected poet's work. This month's poet was Philip Larkin and the readers were Charles Dance (best know as Mr Tulkinghorn in Bleak House) and Dominic West (apparently plays Jimmy McNulty in some show called the Wire). Hart is absolutely right about the necessity of hearing poetry and not reading it, and it is so much better to have actors performing the poems rather than the author's stilting and self-conscious reading. I've never been a huge Larkin fan and before the readings began I was secretly disappointed to have missed other, favoured poets, but the actors made the poems come alive in such an inspiring way, that you can't help but make immediate connections. I absolutely loved it and when I got home later that night I tried to book for March's reading (Wilde!!), but it was already sold out...

A little Larkin to leave you. I really liked this poem, read last night, called 'Dockery and Son':
'Dockery was junior to you,
Wasn't he?' said the Dean. 'His son's here now.'
Death-suited, visitant, I nod. 'And do
You keep in touch with-' Or remember how
Black-gowned, unbreakfasted, and still half-tight
We used to stand before that desk, to give
'Our version' of 'these incidents last night'?
I try the door of where I used to live:

Locked. The lawn spreads dazzlingly wide.
A known bell chimes. I catch my train, ignored.
Canal and clouds and colleges subside
Slowly from view. But Dockery, good Lord,
Anyone up today must have been born
In '43, when I was twenty-one.
If he was younger, did he get this son
At nineteen, twenty? Was he that withdrawn

High-collared public-schoolboy, sharing rooms
With Cartwright who was killed? Well, it just shows
How much . . . How little . . . Yawning, I suppose
I fell asleep, waking at the fumes
And furnace-glares of Sheffield, where I changed,
And ate an awful pie, and walked along
The platform to its end to see the ranged
Joining and parting lines reflect a strong

Unhindered moon. To have no son, no wife,
No house or land still seemed quite natural.
Only a numbness registered the shock
Of finding out how much had gone of life,
How widely from the others. Dockery, now:
Only nineteen, he must have taken stock
Of what he wanted, and been capable
Of . . . No, that's not the difference: rather, how

Convinced he was he should be added to!
Why did he think adding meant increase?
To me it was dilution. Where do these
Innate assumptions come from? Not from what
We think truest, or most want to do:
Those warp tight-shut, like doors. They're more a style
Our lives bring with them: habit for a while,
Suddenly they harden into all we've got

And how we got it; looked back on, they rear
Like sand-clouds, thick and close, embodying
For Dockery a son, for me nothing,
Nothing with all a son's harsh patronage.
Life is first boredom, then fear.
Whether or not we use it, it goes,
And leaves what something hidden from us chose,
And age, and then the only end of age.

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