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This report is taken from PN Review 115, Volume 23 Number 5, May - June 1997.

A Member of the Reading Gillian Allnutt

I have a dream and it's about a poetry reading I've never been to, either as performer or as part of the audience. I think of The Member of the Wedding. I think of twelve-year-old Frankie's longing to belong. Is it a dream about belonging? Belonging to what, though? In what sense belonging? It may be about belonging to something that happens; to something that, in happening, breaks barriers of sound, meaning, being.

My dream is impractical, daft, like wishing that all the pubs in England would turn themselves into Parisian cafés overnight. Daft because they wouldn't smell right or sound right and afterwards you'd still have to go home on an English bus.

'We were left behind/in a firelit room/in which the colour scheme/crouched well down -/golds, a sort of dun//a distressed ochre -/and the sole richness was/in the suggestion of a texture/like the low flax gleam/that comes off polished leather.' That's from 'The Oral Tradition' by the Irish poet Eavan Boland,1 a poem concerned with a particular conversation that occurs 'at the end of a reading/or a workshop or whatever' - and I know from the conversation that something has happened here, something that comes close to my dream, which has to do with a kind of intimacy, with 'the suggestion of a texture'.

I meant to write here about venue - I love that firelit room - but I know that the belonging, the intimacy, I'm after, happens not because ...


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