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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

A Night at the Book Mart



I have to tell you about the monthly poetry open mic Paddy hosts at a wonderful secondhand bookshop in Sligo called the Book Mart.

Paddy had assured me there’d be vegan food at the event, and sure enough, Donal and Adam (who work there) had prepared two really delicious and filling grain and bean salads, with French bread and cashews on the side, and orange juice as an alternative to wine. When I asked Donal if he were vegan himself, he said, “I’m not vegan, no, but why wouldn’t I make food that everyone can eat?”





There was a good turnout (no more space to sit in the back room), and the readings were wonderfully varied—there was quite a bit of original work as well as original translations (I wish I could remember the name of a very young German poet who wrote of the horrors of war as if he’d witnessed them firsthand, yet he’d written the poem at least a year before WWI broke out; he was translated by a gentleman named Frank, and I was really impressed at how he’d managed naturally to preserve the rhymes), prose as well as poetry, and even some science fiction thrown in for good measure.

One of my favorites was “Porphyria’s Lover,” written by Robert Browning and read by Paddy:

That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
       Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
       In one long yellow string I wound
       Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
       I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
       I warily oped her lids: again
       Laughed the blue eyes without a stain…

This poem reminds me of that line from one of the witchy Discworld books (Witches Abroad, I think?), about a proper “happily ever after” necessitating chopping the bride’s and groom’s heads off the minute they’ve said “I do.” (Or, ahem, the morning after?) At any rate, all I remembered about Robert Browning was the schmoopiness of his romance with Elizabeth Barrett (though in fairness, “how do I love thee? let me count the ways” was probably not so cheesy back then), so this poem rather shocked me. But Paddy has a delightfully gothic sensibility (he is obsessed with the Grand Guignol, after all), so there was no better person to read it aloud.




After the break I read a passage from Bones & All, and I think everyone was too taken aback to respond to it apart from “I know this isn’t what you were going for, but I really want a hamburger now.” (I suspect I’m going to be hearing a lot of that.)



My Book Mart haul. Donal tried to charge me €20 for €27 worth of books. They are SO NICE!


1 Comment to A Night at the Book Mart

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    May 14, 2014 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    What a depressing poem by Robert Browning!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.