Decades ago my late friend Martin Booth drove us from Cambridgeto London where we read
at the Poetry Centre with beveled windows behind us, on an afternoonmulti-mullioned.
The rain through which we’d sped that November Sundayhad stopped,
& in that elegant room light intensified from behind us, coalescedon Martin’s back
where he stood at a carved oak lectern & railed against English manners,& remembered Chatterton,
& diatribed the current poetry scene in Britain as puerile, sterile,& said that the American
here with him today wasn’t, so that by the time I read, half the audiencehad sworn patriotic allegiance
to all those Martin labeled “decorous versifiers,” & were pissed at me.I don’t remember
what poems of mine I spoke, nature or the Holocaust or both, but nowI’ll leave merry England—
its chandelier disappears as the room brightens with prismsof polite applause,
then Martin’s fierce aspect as he slammed his car door & drove us out of therelike bards from hell.
(Martin Booth, 1944–2004)