‘Drama & Verse: Simon Armitage & Peter Oswald’

The other night, the Folger’s poetry reading was titled, Drama & Verse: Simon Armitage and Peter Oswald.

It was a wonderful night, except that both men took oddly exceptional steps to distance themselves from poetry and towards drama.

Oswald performed a reading of an verse adaptation/translation of an Italian folktale. It was a wonderful experience, done in a mixture of modern and timeless (not timeless, in a cheesy, ‘this is eternal’ sense, but rather in lacking in major, time-sensitive stylistic signifiers beyond ‘modern, post-Austen English) language and also in iambic pentameter.

The iambic part was cool, because earlier that evening, I had been talking about iambic pentameter with my mother and how much of Moby Dick is written in – or in something close – to iambic pentameter. Another reminder that that meter doesn’t have to stick out like an attention-seeking anachronism.

Oswald also did the adaption of Mary Stuart that I’m seeing on February 11. I bought a copy and had him sign it to my mother. She’s been wanting read about figures from Elizabeth I’s time who aren’t actually Elizabeth I. However, I can’t give it to her until I read it and while I started reading it, I decided that I don’t want to finish it until I see the play. But I like it so far.

I’d read Armitage’s translation of Gawain & the Green Knight earlier and enjoyed it thoroughly. So I splurged and bought his translation of The Death of Arthur. Not to be confused with the Malory one. Apparently, this one is known at the AMA or Alliterative Morte d’Arthur. You learn something new every day.

I just wish either man had been more willing to step forward from their roles as translators and (verse) dramaturgists and say, ‘I am a poet and this is poetry.’ I would have been quite happy with that.

The moderator was somebody named Smith from the British Embassy, serving in some cultural capacity. He had a that longish, semi-leonine mane of white hair that only the English and French seem to ever adopt. He looked rather like someone who could have played Doctor Who (a bit of the Third Doctor, Pertwee, in his look; and Armitage looked a bit like a more dour Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton).

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